Canadian moguls skier Alexandre Bilodeau finally brings an Olympic gold medal home

A stunning performance caps off a dramatic day at Cypress Mountain

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      Freestyle moguls skier Alexandre Bilodeau has just become the first Canadian athlete to win a gold medal on home soil. He did it in hugely dramatic style.

      It was electrifying to be just feet from the finish line when Bilodeau crossed it and set off an explosion of cheers in the packed grandstand behind me. Here’s how this straight-out-of-Hollywood day went (or rather, straight-out-of-Hollywood-North):

      REMEMBER HOW I mentioned in my previous post that it was warm up here on Cypress for the men’s moguls event? Well, by the time the qualifying round arrived, at 2:30 p.m., it was definitely unwarm. The spot I found to watch the round was in a fenced-off patch of snow, and when the sun began to fade about half an hour before the start, the cold began to rise through my boots.

      Fortunately, my vantage point easily made up for it: just behind the team coaches, about 20 feet from where the competitors came to their skidding halts, throwing up gouts of snow onto the row of crouched photographers. Behind us was the grandstand, filled with hollering, cowbelled fans, waving flags. On either side were corrals for standing spectators, packed like the Tokyo subway at rush hour.

      The P.A. announcers regularly mentioned things like “libations” and “good times”, and asked us all to “hug the person next to you”. The amped-up soundtrack for the pummelling descents of the lone racers was all Black Sabbath, Eminem, and Van Halen.

      And the racing itself was amazing. The competitors came juddering down the hill toward us, launching themselves off two sharp jumps along the way, each a brief moment of gymnastic grace amid a complete thrashing of knees and spine. One of the aerial moves—by Guilbaut Colas, the frontrunner at the end of the qualifying round—looked like a person relaxing in a chair while falling out of an airplane.

      But the visual highlight of the qualifying round was far from planned. It came when Anthony Benna of France lost control about halfway down. What started as an agonizing series of attempts to right himself ended with a somersault so complete that he simply landed upright and continued skiing. Worth zero points, but a piece of physical genius.

      All four Canadians made it into the finals with their performances in the qualifying round, with Alexandre Bilodeau ranking second (and thus starting second from last in the final round).

      BY THE 5:30 P.M. START of the final, the floodlights were on, magnifying the wall-like steepness of the course.

      The competitors had clearly been holding something back earlier in the day, because now they were flying down the hill. At one point, three-quarters of the way through the round, Canadians Vincent Marquis and Pierre-Alexandre Rousseau sat first and second, clearly raising hopes among the fans that more than one member of the team would be on the podium at the end of the evening.

      But there were still some of the most powerful moguls skiers in the world to come. The top two in the global rankings, Sweden’s Jesper Bjoernlund and Australia’s Dale Begg-Smith, skied from the 16th and 17th spots in the 20-man order. And while Bjoernlund could only manage a fourth-place result, Begg-Smith moved into first with a technically flawless run.

      Then the USA’s Bryon Wilson nailed his performance with an audacious opening aerial. He moved into second behind Begg-Smith, leaving only Bilodeau with a shot at gold.

      Skiing second to last, and with the crowd’s roar echoing up the slope, the Montreal native linked his massive, twisting first aerial and his soaring second—an “iron cross” (as I learned today to call it)—with an astonishing attack on the moguls themselves.

      A blast of voices came from the grandstand when his first-place score was announced. (And no one can say there was home-field advantage as far as judging went: of the five judges of the “turns” element, it was the Canadian who gave Bilodeau the lowest score.)

      After France’s Guilbaut Colas managed only sixth place with his round-ending run, it was official. And a history-making day for the Canadian Olympic team was in the books.

      Photo gallery: Men's Freestyle Moguls.




      Feb 14, 2010 at 8:12pm

      omygoodness!!!!! i love alex he is amazzzzing! and his borther was so adorable, they looked so hapy when they were hugging together! GO CANADA!!!

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      the UGLY Chinese Canadian

      Feb 15, 2010 at 12:40am

      Alex represents everything that is right about Canada -

      Your love for your cerebral palsy elder brother, your humility, respect and dignity. We love you!

      Congratulations!!! Alex, You are GOLD!

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      Feb 15, 2010 at 2:51am

      Sweet that we've raised one of the best in the world at an expensive leisure hobby! Personally, I know I'm likely to consume any product he may represent in the future, and imbibe in the shared euphoria of this trivial accomplishment enough to completely forget about the unnecessary extravagance of this spectacle. Cool to watch, though.

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      East Van Mom

      Feb 15, 2010 at 10:12am

      You make us all very proud, Alex! Outstanding athlete + sweet brother= true Olympian!

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      Mark Dowling

      Feb 15, 2010 at 12:45pm

      meanwhile the #no2010 people are in mourning... as is "the spyware mogul"

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      Luca Martin

      Feb 23, 2010 at 4:44pm

      thanks for winning gold and helping us all beat the US

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