The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION
Posted: 02/10/2014 9:40 AM | Comments: 0
Last Modified: 02/10/2014 4:52 PM
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia - Alex Bilodeau walked into the news conference room after winning gold at the Sochi Games and immediately gave teammate Mikael Kingsbury a celebratory handshake and hug.
Bilodeau took his coat off, placed his goggles on the dais and sat down with a content look, knowing he delivered the run he always wanted. Kingsbury, who won silver, sat beside him with his helmet and gear still on as if one more crack at the course might await.
Bilodeau's Olympic career was complete while his younger teammate's was just beginning. After raising the other's skill level all season, they did it again Monday with Bilodeau edging his friend for the title.
"I need to retire now because he's pushing me too hard," Bilodeau said. "That's the best I can do."
Bilodeau, Canada's first gold medallist four years ago in Vancouver, had a flawless final run to earn a score of 26.31. He struggled at times in the early rounds before closing things out with a beauty under the lights at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.
He navigated the mounds on the course with remarkable fluidity. Bilodeau wowed with both jumps in the final run, spinning and twisting his way through the air before nailing his landings.
He popped once he crossed the line, raised his arms in the air and nearly jumped out of his boots. Bilodeau called it the best run of his career.
"When I crossed the finish line I knew that was all I could give," he said.
Kingsbury, from Deux-Montagnes, Que., was the last skier in the six-man final. He wobbled at one point midway through the final run and finished with a 24.71.
To the delight of a raucous near-capacity crowd, Russia's Alexandr Smyshlyaev was third at 24.34. Marc-Antoine Gagnon of Terrebonne, Que., finished fourth at 23.35.
Bilodeau said his run was much stronger than his effort in Vancouver. This time around, he hit a backflip with two spins and followed it with an off-axis jump with three spins.
"I've dreamed about laying down a run like that," he said. "That's it. I know that (Kingsbury) can deliver a better run than me. I know he's got more talent. But I put the pressure on him."
Kingsbury, who at 21 is five years younger than Bilodeau, is the reigning world champion and has taken the overall World Cup title the last two years. He won the first three World Cups of the season before Bilodeau took the next three.
But Kingsbury came up just short in the rubber match.
"I made a small mistake. It wasn't enough," he said. "I'm second and I have a medal in my first Games ever. I just can't wait for the next Olympics to go get the gold the next time."
It was the second 1-2 finish for the Canadian moguls team at these Games. Montreal sisters Justine and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe won gold and silver in the women's competition on Saturday night.
Bilodeau, from Rosemere, Que., won't be officially retiring just yet. He plans to finish the current season and then focus on his accounting studies.
"I'm glad to finish my last Olympics like this," he said. "It's going to be a great retirement. The future of freestyle skiing in Canada is not done, there is so many good kids coming up and I am so glad to share a podium with one of them."
Canada is the only country that has won the men's moguls on more than one occasion. Jean-Luc Brassard won gold at the Lillehammer Games in 1994.
Bilodeau is the first moguls skier to defend an Olympic title. He's confident his teammate will reach the top step in the future.
"That kid next to me, he's going to do two in a row also," Bilodeau said.
Rising temperatures during the day turned the course soft and slushy. Instead of powdery snow that allows racers to carve graceful turns at near breakneck speeds, several skiers in the 29-man field either veered off course or tumbled during qualifying.
Bilodeau received a long celebratory hug from his brother Frederic right after his victory. He says Frederic, who has cerebral palsy, is his hero and he dedicated his gold medal in Vancouver to him.
"It was amazing. My brother is my everyday inspiration," he said. "Like I say all the time, if he had the life that I have lived he would be a three-time Olympic champion."
Bilodeau is the first freestyle skier in any discipline to win two Olympic gold medals and the first Canadian man to successfully defend an individual Olympic gold medal, the Canadian Olympic Committee said.
It was also the 13th time in Winter Games history that Canada has won two medals in the same event.
"I really wanted to defend my medal," Bilodeau said. "But there was no way I was expecting to ski that way, and that's because of (Kingsbury). Because if he (wasn't) there, I wouldn't have pushed that hard."
With files from The Associated Press.
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