Though their combined age doesn’t even add up to 40, they have already notched a long list of World Cup successes. Melanie and Loic Meillard, the 18- and 20-year-old Swiss skiing siblings, look toward the upcoming winter with confidence from their past season. In 2017, Melanie placed fifth in slalom at World Cup Finals in Aspen, coming in 10th in the slalom standings for the year. Older brother Loic placed 10th in Kranjska Gora’s giant slalom and won the Junior World Championship in GS and alpine combined at Are. With a former speed skier as their father, Melanie and Loic have found their form in the technical disciplines and progress together with smiles on their faces. They kicked off the 2017-18 season in the Southern Hemisphere, one in Argentina and the other in New Zealand. We talked summer, winter, family genes, and their Olympic Winter Games goals.
How is training going in the Southern Hemisphere? Do you have any races lined up?
Melanie: Today was my first day on the Argentinian snow, in Ushuaia, and luckily I am not too jet-legged. I am going to train in both my disciplines, giant slalom and slalom. Just training, no races. There are many other teams down here, and I already know many of them from the World Cup.
Loic: Today it was the first day on skis. We just free-skied, easy, but it looks nice. It is a bit soft for now, but they are going to water the terrain so it should be nice. We are still discussing doing some races in Coronet Peak (New Zealand), but first we have to see how the training goes.
We can safely say that last season it was a great one with lots of starts in World Cup and some of your best results. What are you happy with, and what would you have done better?
M: Hard to say, but the best thing was the Finals at Aspen and in general being on the World Cup circuit. The offseason conditioning could have gone better. This year I worked more and better in dryland thanks to our private trainer, Patrick Flaction, who has helped me and my brother for the past two seasons.
L: I think it was a good season. Every time I was at the start I took top 30 in giant slalom, just in Soelden I was 31, so that’s already better than last year. Despite the fact that I got injured at the end of December, and missed three races in GS, I finished in the top 30. I was happy with that. I think my slalom was there as well, but since I missed the whole month of January when a lot of slaloms take place, it was hard to make a lot of points. I tore the lateral meniscus and had surgery to remove part of it. It didn’t keep me out from skiing for long. In two weeks I was out skiing and one month later I was racing again. Injuries are never fun, but I learned a lot and I am sure I can take what I learned into the years to come.
What’s your favorite race venue?
M: For now, I still haven’t had the chance of deciding. But, if I’d have to choose, it would be in my mountains, like Thyon-Les Collons, in Switzerland.
L: I don’t really have a favorite venue, I like them all. The last two years I did good in Kranjska Gora. It was always hard conditions, and that’s when I feel the best, so it worked out well.
Do you have any hobbies?
M: I had to find the time to do an internship through the school – apprentisage. Now it’s done so I can find the time to do something else. This summer I went to London and southern France.
L: Sports in general, photography, sometimes traveling a bit. I like to play tennis, squash, climbing, hiking, paddling on the lake. It is good to switch it up. This summer I also went to Paris and watched the Roland Garros.
How do you feel about speed events – and downhill in particular?
M: For downhill it’s a no, for super-G a maybe. I am not really training for it. I put the long skis on sometimes, but no trainings.
L: I like them and I feel good in downhill but for now I am focusing more on technical disciplines, and super-G a bit. But if you want to see me skiing downhill, you have to come to (Swiss) nationals. Maybe in a few years that’s going be something I will do, but for now the focus is more on the tech. Anyway, I enjoy it for myself, and I put on skis for training sometimes.
The Meillards are yet another example of siblings skiing at the highest level at a very young age. Taking a step back, how did your parents contribute to this journey? Where do the fast genes come from?
M: They did anything so we could succeed. They never stopped us or kept us from anything. We skied a lot with them too and mostly, they gave us the means to get where we are. The genes, they come from my dad. He did speed skiing. My mom wasn’t into competitive skiing.
L: First off, when we were kids, they supported us by just coming ski with us and giving us tips. Then for sure supporting us with the financial part at all times, following us to races, and helping us at training. But also mentally, when it was not good or when it was good, being there for us. They did a lot for us, including moving from Neuchatel to Heremence.
Siblings on skis – do you give each other advice? What do you like the most about your brother/sister as a skier?
M: Everything. His technique – his hunger to make it. In anything he does, he does it at his best. We are both hungry to make it. We don’t give each other big advice; we talk if there is anything going on, but we both know what to do and our coaches are there for that reason.
L: Giving advice is difficult now. She is top 15 in the world, so I guess she knows how to do it but we still like to share those moments and talk. She likes what she does and she just does it with a smile, she just pushes through and gives everything she has.
On the road to the PyeongChang Olympics, what’s the game plan?
M: Work a lot physically, skiing good to be in shape for the start of season and score results to qualify. If I’ll qualify, get there in the best shape. Dream or reality? It’s a possibility.
L: Taking every race as it comes and if I can qualify, that’s a bonus. Dream or reality? For now it’s a dream, we will see after a few races if it turns into reality.