By Martyn Herman
ROSA KHUTOR, Russia (Reuters) - "All for one, one for all" was the motto of the Three Musketeers, but for the Frenchmen who won all three medals in Olympic ski cross on Thursday the individual definitely takes precedence over the collective.
"In ski cross only one guy can be first, it's every man for himself," bronze medalist Jonathan Midol said. "But our success is definitely a result of our joint achievement and effort. We all put our soul into it."
Jean Frederic Chapuis, who won gold, silver medalist Arnaud Bovolenta and Midol formed a "new generation" for France after the Vancouver Games, set on qualifying for Sochi while remaining close friends and partying together.
On Thursday they achieved "perfection", according to Chapuis, with their sweep of the podium in the four-man freestyle final.
"We didn't have a strategy. There are three places for the podium, there is one loser's place. We are friends off the slopes but on the slopes we are enemies," he said.
Had things gone to plan Chapuis might have been getting off at the cable car's next stop this past fortnight, at Sochi's Alpine skiing centre. But his hopes of making it as an Olympian in skiing's traditional events never quite worked out.
"I started skiing in France but I did not succeed in the national team. I went to Switzerland, I tried doing it there and I had a great season," said the 24-year-old who has dual nationality.
"I just missed out making it into the Swiss national team so I took a break from Alpine skiing."
In 2010 he met France's ski cross coach Michel Lucatelli, another frustrated Alpine ski racer. After taking a while to get up to speed, Chapuis is now the world and Olympic champion.
"Michel was the one that gave me a second chance," Chapuis told reporters on Thursday.
"It was perfect timing. In the beginning I was always last. But I got lucky and I developed quite quickly in the sport."
France's storming of the men's ski cross podium follows two French medals in the Alpine men's giant slalom the previous day and took the nation's medal total to 14, their best tally at a Winter Games.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Robert Woodward)