Canada's Alex Bilodeau wins moguls gold, teammate Mikael Kingsbury takes silver
Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press
Published Monday, February 10, 2014 10:45AM EST
Last Updated Monday, February 10, 2014 5:02PM EST
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia -- Alex Bilodeau is back atop the Olympic podium and he says he has his teammates to thank for it.
The freestyle skier from Rosemere, Que., defended his gold medal in men's moguls at the Sochi Olympics on Monday, edging his teammates Mikael Kingsbury of Deux-Montagnes, Que., who took silver, and Marc-Antoine Gagnon of Terrebonne, Que., who finished fourth.
Bilodeau, Canada's first gold medallist four years ago in Vancouver, had a flawless final run to earn a score of 26.31.
"It's a great feeling, but I need to first of all thank all my colleagues," Bilodeau said. "I was the third to go, there were two other Canadians after me, every day they push me in training and that's why I got my best skiing tonight. That's why I'm the best skier I have ever been right now and the guy that finished second, he is going to win everything after I have gone."
Bilodeau, who is the first moguls skier to defend an Olympic title, received a long celebratory hug from his brother Frederic right after his victory. Bilodeau 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."
Kingsbury, who has been Bilodeau's main rival on the World Cup circuit this season, had a small stumble in his final run to finish with 24.71.
Russia's Alexandr Smyshlyaev was third with 24.34.
It's the second 1-2 finish for the Canadian moguls team at these Games after Montreal sisters Justine and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe won gold and silver in the women's competition on Saturday night. Bilodeau is happy with where the program is going.
"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."
While the 26-year-old Bilodeau was the defending champion, the 21-year-old Kingsbury is the reigning world champion and he has won the World Cup overall title the last two years.
Kingsbury picked up three World Cup victories at the start of this season but Bilodeau won the last three World Cups leading into Sochi.
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.
Going fourth in the six-man final, Bilodeau was flawless as he navigated the mounds with his knees appearing magnetized together. He thrilled over the two jumps, spinning and twisting his way through the balmy air before floating back to earth and continuing on his way.
Kingsbury couldn't match it. His knees separated midway through the final run, and while he raised his hands as he crossed the line, he knew he was finished.
"I was going for gold, but just to be on the podium is crazy and I am with my teammate," he said. "It's just unbelievable."
The two embraced, though it was Bilodeau who flashed the "No. 1" sign during the flower ceremony in the giddy aftermath.
Rising temperatures during the day turned a course already deemed questionable by some into the world's largest Slurpee machine.
Instead of powdery snow that allows racers to carve graceful turns at near breakneck speeds, nearly half of the field either veered off course or tumbled head over skis during qualifying.
-- With files from The Associated Press