Bilodeau brings home the gold: Moguls skier makes Canadian Olympic history

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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WEST VANCOUVER, B.C. _ Canada's Olympic gold medal drought at home is finally over.

Freestyle skier Alexandre Bilodeau has won the men's moguls at the Vancouver Olympics.

The 22-year-old from Rosemere, Que., wrote himself into the history books by overtaking defending champion Dale Begg-Smith _ a Canadian-born skier who now competes for Australia.

It's the first time Canada has won a gold medal at its own Games. Canada failed to make it to the top of the podium in Montreal in 1976 and Calgary in 1988.

``The party's just starting for Canada,' Bilodeau told CTV.

Skiing second from last, Bilodeau blew past Begg-Smith to take the lead with 26.75 points. He then had to wait to see the final run by Frenchman Guilbaut Colas, who ended up sixth.

Begg-Smith, the current World Cup leader, settled for silver with 26.58 points. American Bryon Wilson was third with 26.08.

Begg-Smith marched past reporters after the competition but said en route: ``I skied the way I wanted to ski.'

Vincent Marquis of Quebec City was fourth at 25.88 followed by Pierre-Alexandre Rousseau of Drummondville, Que., with 25.83.

``I'm very happy for him and I'm really proud that it's Alexandre that has won the first gold medal for Canada,' said Rousseau.

Fans chanted 'Canada! Canada!`` as the gold medal went down to the wire at Cypress Mountain. Bilodeau's father and older brother Frederic, who has cerebral palsy, were in the stands as he made history.

After the win, an emotional Bilodeau called brother Frederic ``my inspiration.'

His gold follows the silver won by teammate Jennifer Heil of Spruce Grove, Alta., on Saturday night and long-track speedskater Kristina Groves' bronze earlier Sunday.

Bilodeau, who was ranked fourth heading into the Games, threw his arms in the air in celebration as he stepped on the podium after the event.

Since making his Olympic debut in 2006, Bilodeau's career has soared. He finished the 2005-06 season ranked second in the world and was named FIS rookie of the year. The following season he finished No. 3, and in 2007-08 he was No. 4.

Last season, he exploded on the World Cup hills, winning five golds and three silvers in nine starts en route to the overall championship.

He had won medals in three events this season but gold had eluded him _ until Sunday. He said there's more to come from his Canadian teammates at the Games.

``I don't think I've realized it yet,' Bilodeau said in the CTV interview. ``It's just too good to be true, but there are so many golds to come. Canada is so strong right now.'

Asked last Monday about the possibility of winning Canada's first gold medal, Bilodeau said he was sure someone was going to do it before him. ``I would bet a lot of money on the first day. I know somebody is going to do it before me.'

Bilodeau did it one day later.

That freestyle skiing is Bilodeau's sport of choice should surprise no one. According to his bio on the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association website, the thrill-seeker would be a fighter jet pilot if he had to choose a different career.

That daredevil mentality is evident in his skiing style. Bilodeau is one of the sport's biggest risk-takers, often attempting the most difficult jumps and hurtling down the middle sections of the course with a recklessness that can either lead to high scores or spectacular wipeouts.

Organizations: CTV, Vancouver Olympics, Canadian Freestyle Ski Association

Geographic location: Canada, WEST VANCOUVER, Rosemere Australia Montreal Calgary Quebec City Drummondville Cypress Mountain Spruce Grove

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