Bilodeau, Kingsbury go 1-2 for Canada in Olympic moguls
Serge Bilodeau looked up at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park moguls course, twinkling like a diamond necklace in the dark mountain sky.
"Two in a row," he said, when asked about his son Alex, the now two-time Olympic moguls champion. "It's amazing, it's incredible. What can I say?"
Amazing and incredible is not a bad start.
You could throw in any number of superlatives to describe Alex Bilodeau's performance on Monday night. Four years ago, on Cypress Mountain, Bilodeau made history by becoming the first Canadian to win an Olympic gold medal on home soil. And now the pride of Rosemere, Que., has done it again, winning a second moguls gold to become the first freestyle skier ever to win two consecutive golds.
Right behind him on the Rosa Khutor course was his friend and Canadian teammate, 21-year-old Mikael Kingsbury, who took silver. An overall World Cup champion as a 19-year old two seasons ago, Kingsbury was probably the favourite to win the gold in Sochi, but he made a small mistake on his final run, allowing Bilodeau to take the gold with a score of 26.31. To the delight of the Russian fans, Alexandr Smyshlyaev edged another Canadian, Marc-Antoine Gagnon for the bronze, preventing a Canadian sweep. Kingsbury finished with a score of 24.71, Smyshlyaev had 24.34.
Bilodeau was far from perfect during the qualifying runs, almost falling backwards at one point.. But in the Super Final, he laid down a perfect run, with two difficult jumps, a back double full, and an off-axis 10-80.
"Every Olympic experience is unique," said the 26-year-old, who plans to retire after this season. "Laying down the best run (Monday), it's not even comparable to Vancouver. I had a higher degree of difficulty, I was faster, I didn't make any mistakes ... yeah, it's a perfect run for me. Like I said, I can't do any better."
And just like in Vancouver four years ago, the entire Bilodeau family was in the stands to watch Alex win gold, including his older brother Frederic, who suffers from cerebral palsy. Minutes after Alex crossed the line, Frederic was carried from the stands to the finish area by a couple of friends, all the while screaming with joy and greeting his brother with a hug.
"My ski colleagues are my inspiration, they are pushing me every day to be the best skier, to go faster, to go bigger," said Alex. "But my every-day inspiration when I wake up in the morning, is my brother. If he could, with the motivation he has, if he had the chance to be a normal person like me, he would have been a four-time Olympic champion. He's a great inspiration, a great person, and he's going to be inspiration for my after-career also."
When asked what Frederic said to him at the finish line, Alex replied: "The same thing he said to me in Vancouver, and in Turino in 2006. That he loves me and he's proud."
Meanwhile, in the viewing area in front of the stands, Kingsbury's parents, Julie Thibaudeau and Robert Kingsbury, stood behind a fence, accepting congratulations from the Canadian fans. As Thibaudeau jumped and screamed for joy, her phone rang. After clicking off, someone asked her who had called.
"Quebec," she said, with a smile.
"The whole province?" she was asked.
Laughing, her husband explained that it was actually a call from the Mont Saint-Sauveur ski club in Quebec, the club Mikael joined when he was eight years old. They had all gathered to watch the event on TV. Bilodeau later praised his young teammate for pushing him during the four years since Vancouver. Bilodeau considered retiring after those Games, taking part of the 2011-12 season off to give his body a rest and spend more time on his accounting studies. By the time he returned to full time action, Kingsbury, a native of Deux-Montagnes, Que., had emerged as the new Canadian star, recording a record-tying six-race win streak to start the 2011-12 season with Bilodeau away. Since Bilodeau's full-time return, the Canadian duo has dominated the World Cup circuit.
Thibaudeau said when Mikael was a little boy, he wrote down his Christmas wish, which was to compete at a World Cup at Mont Tremblant. He also drew some Olympic rings on a piece of paper and wrote the words "I will win" on them. He still keeps the drawing on the ceiling in his bedroom.
"I put it there and I haven't touched it yet. I will win," Kingsbury said.
With Bilodeau out of the picture after this season, that seems like a good bet.
- Canada is the only country to win the men's moguls more than once at the Winter Olympics (Jean-Luc Brassard, Alex Bilodeau twice).
- Bilodeau is the first freestyle skier in any discipline to win two Olympic gold medals.
- Bilodeau is the first Canadian man and second Canadian athlete (after speed skater Catriona Le May Doan) to successfully defend an individual Olympic gold medal.
- The gold-silver finish by Bilodeau and Mikael Kingsbury is the 13th time in Olympic Winter Games history that Canada has won two medals in the same event (second time at these Games).