Q&A: Kevin Rolland talks impact of Olympics, future career plans
Photos by @Shay_Will
Kevin Rolland is undoubtedly one of the most decorated halfpipe skiers in the game. Throughout his career, the 24 year old of La Plagne, France has captured multiple medals in his discipline at various platinum level events. However, even with all of those medals, the most highlighted piece of hardware in Rolland’s trophy case is probably the first ever Olympic Men’s Halfpipe Bronze Medal. Now that the chaos surrounding the sport’s debut in the Winter Games has settled down, we caught up with the flying Frenchman to chat about his Olympic season, the event’s impact on the sport, and his future career plans. Check out the Q&A with Rolland, below.
Skiing means a lot to a country like France. What’s the [Olympic] reception been like?
It’s been crazy. I didn’t expect it. We are a big country of skiers, but it’s more on the racing side. We aren’t that big into action sports yet. People don’t really know about this side of the sport, so it feels good to bring home a medal so I can show the country our sport. And I’m getting invited on TV shows so I can explain it more, and that’s a good thing for France.
How was the response when you got home?
A lot of night activity. [laughs] Yeah a lot of celebrating, for sure. I didn’t go out that much during the season because I was focused on being in shape and keeping the power for skiing, so everything goes out the window now. I’ve had so much fun and couldn’t wait to go to La Plagne to see my best friends and family.
Do you think the Olympics brought something positive to the sport, not just in regards to France, but all countries?
I think it was really good. Now people know what it is, they know that freestyle skiing and action sports are cool. We really needed it—especially in France—because we don’t have the European X Games anymore. Euro X was our only mainstream event, the only event that was on TV. With the Olympics, it was a great promotion for our sport.
Rolland boosts at X Games Aspen 2014
When skiing was first announced it would be in the Olympics in 2011, what were your first thoughts?
I don’t know. I thought it was crazy. I love sports and always have considered myself an athlete, so now you feel like your sport is on the same page as other sports. Like athletics or futbol or whatever. We are not under other sports anymore; we’re the same level. That feels great and people are taking our sport more seriously.
You’ve been involved in the sport for a while—won X Games gold in 2010 and 2011—did you ever think you’d see freeskiing in the Olympics?
I was pissed that we weren’t included in 2010 in Vancouver. First of all because I was at the top of my game. [laughs] But I didn’t understand why the snowboarders were there and not us. Snowboarding and skiing were doing the same kind of stuff. But when I heard it was going to be in in 2014, I was so stoked and happy. I was like, “Finally. Finally we are in.” It’s not too late, but it’s not that early, you know?
There was three years everyone had to wait until the Olympics. Did you focus those years on Sochi or was it business as usual?
I never prepared just for the Olympics. In my mind, it’s more about trying to be the best; to train and ski to win the X Games and the Dew Tour. Step-by-step, if I work to be the best, I’ll be good at the Olympics. To me, it’s really important to do well at the X Games and the Olympics. Without the X Games, the Olympics is only once every four years. What else would we do the rest of the time?
Growing up in France, Candide Thovex was the go-to guy. But now you’re kind of the go-to guy. Do you think you can help bring up another generation of skiers?
Yeah, sure. That’s one of my goals. We don’t have a lot of snow parks or halfpipe here. We don’t have too many ski clubs. The goal is to try to push the sport in my country. In the US it’s big and you don’t ask this question because there are parks and pipes everywhere. I remember the first time I went to the US, the halfpipes and the kickers were huge and so perfect. I was impressed and so hungry to ride and to do my best.
After a three year wait from the announcement until Sochi, was it weird that some pioneers of the sport weren’t there?
It was tough, especially for Simon [Dumont], not going to the Olympics because he’s done so much for halfpipe skiing, and freeskiing in general. Simon is definitely still in the game, too. When he hurt his ACL in Park City, I was so pissed. I almost cried. I know he won’t quit and he’ll continue to ride and it’ll be awesome. But not seeing him in the competition, it wasn’t the same feeling.
It’s all about the youth in the sport right now, but the Olympic podium was three veterans. Do you think experience had anything to do with that?
Yeah, I think experience helps a lot especially because of the conditions we had. The conditions were crazy, really hard and slow. Raining… snowing. I think it’s really helpful to have experience, if you have to change your run for qualifications or anything. You have to adapt. That’s what makes the difference.
Do you think freeskiing as whole, was represented well in Sochi for it’s inaugural go?
I think it was really great. I don’t want to speak specifically but slopestyle was just insane. We couldn’t have had a better contest to show the world what freeskiing is. I was a little disappointed with the pipe weather, for sure, but people got to see doubles and crazy stuff so it’s a good thing.
Rolland shows his skills during an X Games practice run
Do you think some people were too focused solely on the Olympics and they were disappointed if the results weren’t favorable?
I don’t really know. I think there were people that were very focused on them and didn’t take care of themselves at events like X Games. Everyone is different, but for me it’s really, really important to promote all events and don’t get too focused on the Olympics. Otherwise that’ll be the death of the sport, if we all do that. It would be like moguls. In France, in moguls there are World Cups but no one cares about them, just the Olympics. They are under pressure only one time every four years, that’s not enough. We are a big sport and have crazy events like X Games. The Olympics is just the icing on the cake.
The Olympics are over, will you be back out competing like every other year, next season?
You know, I’m in this position that I’m not the best in the world right now, I’m third. And I always want to be the best. I love the feeling of chasing the top. It makes me try new tricks to progress and to keep the level high. For sure I’m going to be back next year and try and be on the top of the podium.
I heard rumors that you want to make a run at the 2018 Games.
That’s the first thing that came to my mind when I saw I was third. I’m happy, but shit, that’s the only medal I haven’t won. I’ve won pretty much every other contest there is to win in my career: X Games, Dew Tour, FIS World Championships, the FIS Globe, but not the gold medal at the Olympics. But I’m going to take it year by year and see where I am. I don’t want to compete if I’m not competitive.
About the author:
Shay Williams is the former Managing Editor of Freeskier Magazine. He now works full-time with Monster Energy, and continues to contribute to freeskier.com, offering insights re: the lives of his Monster athletes.