February 23, 2018

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Kingsbury beats nerves to take only moguls prize missing _ Olympic gold

BOKWANG, Korea, Republic Of - Canadian Mikael Kingsbury showed why he's called the King of the Moguls.

The freestyle skier from Deux-Montagnes, Que., who has dominated the World Cup circuit added the one prize missing from his trophy case Monday _ an Olympic gold medal.

Kingsbury was next-to-last to go down the course in the "super-final" _ the last six competitors. So after putting up a flawless performance for a score of 86.63, he had to wait for Japan's Daichi Hara to finish the last run before he could celebrate. Then Kingsbury raised his arms and let out a sigh of relief.

"I could feel the pressure when I got here, especially after my silver medal (at 2014 Winter Games) in Sochi," the 25-year-old said. "Now I've won everything there is to win in my sport.

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Canadian Mikael Kingsbury celebrates captured his first Olympic title in the men's moguls at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Phoenix Snow Park in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Canadian Mikael Kingsbury celebrates captured his first Olympic title in the men's moguls at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Phoenix Snow Park in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

BOKWANG, Korea, Republic Of - Canadian Mikael Kingsbury showed why he's called the King of the Moguls.

The freestyle skier from Deux-Montagnes, Que., who has dominated the World Cup circuit added the one prize missing from his trophy case Monday _ an Olympic gold medal.

Kingsbury was next-to-last to go down the course in the "super-final" _ the last six competitors. So after putting up a flawless performance for a score of 86.63, he had to wait for Japan's Daichi Hara to finish the last run before he could celebrate. Then Kingsbury raised his arms and let out a sigh of relief.

"I could feel the pressure when I got here, especially after my silver medal (at 2014 Winter Games) in Sochi," the 25-year-old said. "Now I've won everything there is to win in my sport.

Canadian Mikael Kingsbury celebrates after winning the men's moguls at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Phoenix Snow Park in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Canadian Mikael Kingsbury celebrates after winning the men's moguls at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Phoenix Snow Park in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

"The feeling is unbelievable. I've lived this moment a million times in my dreams. I can't wait for the medals ceremony Tuesday."

Australian Matt Graham won silver with 82.57 points and Hara was third with 82.19.

Kingsbury gave Canada a third straight Olympic gold medal in moguls after Alexandre Bilodeau's victories in Sochi and at the 2010 Vancouver Games. The two-time world champion added perhaps the biggest title to a career that has seen him post a record 48 victories, including an unmatched run of 13 straight, and 70 top-three finishes in 87 World Cup competitions.

"He's hands-down one of, if not the, greatest person to grace the sport," American skier Casey Andringa told The Associated Press. "What he does is just incredible.

"I'm sure everyone here has studied it, trying to crack the code, and I just don't know if there is a code. I don't think that anyone is going to beat him trying to replicate what he does."

Canadian Mikael Kingsbury celebrates after winning the men's moguls at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Phoenix Snow Park in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Canadian Mikael Kingsbury celebrates after winning the men's moguls at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Phoenix Snow Park in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Kingsbury said he got off to a slow start in the competition, but as the day went on, his runs got better.

"I was stiff in the first round, but I knew that's not where the competition is won," he said. "I kept telling myself, 'Don't try to win every round; be happy just to get through; don't do anything stupid.'

"So I made it to the last six and that's where everything plays out. I pictured my runs in my head and I knew I'd be able to fix the small errors I made by being faster in my absorption. And when I got to the finish line at the end, I knew it would be enough."

Still, he acknowledged that it was a tough day.

"To be honest, I've never been so nervous in my life," he said. "I was nervous when I went to bed last night, and today, because the event was at night, I had to tell myself, 'Look, stop being nervous, stop thinking about skiing' but I wasn't able to.

"The closer we got to the final, the more I felt it. But when I got to the top of the course and saw the moguls down below, I found it comforting."

It was a disappointing day for Kingsbury's Canadian teammates.

Marc-Antoine Gagnon of Terrebonne, Que., was in third place before Hara bumped him to fourth _ the same result he had in 2014 when he just missed the podium behind bronze medallist Alexandr Smyshlyaev of Russia.

Philippe Marquis of Quebec City, who managed to qualify this week despite tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee a month ago, pulled out after a fall in the second round.

He said the knee gave out after an over-extended landing on a jump. But the 28-year-old, who has surgery scheduled for next month, was proud just to make it that far into the competition.

"I'm always going to remember qualifying day, a miraculous day," he said. "Today I pushed my luck knowing the others would be pushing to and unfortunately (the knee) didn't hold up. That was the risk."

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