Dressed as a roaring tiger－but with no tail grabs－Frenchwoman Lucile Lefevre stole the show at snowboarding Big Air’s qualifying round on Monday as she celebrated the Year of the Tiger in her career finale at Beijing 2022.
Donning an orange-and-black suit while miming a pair of claws in the air, Lefevre captured the crowd’s attention in her second run, despite opting for a straightforward jump with no tricks due to a knee injury she sustained during the slopestyle competition on Feb 5.
Having decided to retire from the sport after Beijing 2022, the 26-year-old crowd pleaser made her final run on the Olympic stage one to remember－not just for herself but anyone watching the Games, which are taking place in the lunar calendar’s Year of the Tiger.
”It is my very last competition. I hurt my knee in the slopestyle, so I was not able to do tricks today. I decided to do the competition, but just do it straighter. It’s more fun like this. It’s for tiger new year, so everyone wants a picture with me. It was super fun,” Lefevre said after her three qualification runs.
”I feel good about it, because the world should be fun. There are a lot of problems in the world. If everyone was peace and easy, the world would be better for sure, that’s the message I want to share.”
Before soaring into the spotlight on Monday, the head-to-toe big cat suit was already a viral sensation on social media outside of China after its owner, Swiss snowboarder Nicolas Huber, wore the tiger disguise during his downtime at Genting Snow Park in Zhangjiakou.
So Lefevre borrowed the suit from Huber, adding flair to her otherwise ordinary jumps off the towering ramp at Shougang Industrial Park in Beijing.
Lefevre performed the first of her three runs in her standard Team France jacket, before breaking out the tiger suit for her second and third runs. Lefevre scratched at the air for run 2, but after watching a replay, realized the motion just looked funny in mittens. So on her final run, she waved toward the judges’ tower instead.
”It was not super beautiful,” she said of her claws. “So I decided for the last one to just say Hi to the judges. And especially the French one, because it’s a friend of mine.”
Asked why Huber had the costume to begin with, Lefevre explained that “he’s a crazy man, actually”. The 27-year-old Huber has been wearing the outfit for a series of videos on his Instagram account, apparently inspired by Lunar New Year celebrations that overlapped with the start of the Winter Games.
”I asked yesterday if he can give it to me for the day, a special day for me,” Lefevre said. “And he said, ‘Yes, of course.'”
The two-time Olympian was unperturbed at finishing bottom of the qualification standings, considering simply competing in the Chinese capital was a victory in itself.
Lefevre was diagnosed with osteochondrosis, a rare illness that stunts bone growth, at 3 years old. She had three operations, and doctors told her sports were off the table.
”But then I went snowboarding and made progress. And I’m here (at the Winter Olympics) for the second time,” she said.
Ranked as high as seventh in the World Cup rankings in slopestyle, Lefevre has carved out a successful sporting career as a pro snowboarder but came to a decision a year ago that her body could not quite sustain the challenging nature of the high-flying sport anymore.
What happens next? The Upper Alps native plans to enjoy time with her father at his sailing school.
”I may train baby snowboarders,” she added.