Winter sports: Alex Bilodeau, Heather Kearney win World Cup dual moguls titles
Park City • Five-hundredths of a second separated Alex Bilodeau and Patrick Deneen after they raced down the Champion course at Deer Valley Resort under the lights Saturday night, churning through the moguls and crossing the finish line side by side.
It seemingly took longer for the results to be announced, with reigning Olympic champion Bilodeau claiming gold at the freestyle World Cup event.
"That was very tight," Bilodeau said. "It's as close as you can have. Five-hundredths of a second is really close and he definitely pushed the best out of me. Every guy was a different strategy, a different challenge, but I'm glad I made it down every run."
Deneen added silver to the bronze he won Thursday in moguls. And he was hardly disappointed considering he felt the left line down the course was "substantially faster and smoother and easier everywhere."
Deneen said the only place the "blue" line was better was in the top section.
"So to keep it close with Bilodeau was, in my eyes, like a victory," Deneen said. "So I'm really happy with the way I'm skiing and hopefully I can keep it going for the rest of the year."
Deneen also was happy to finally share a podium with teammate Bradley Wilson, who earned his first career podium by defeating Russia's Alexander Smyshlyaev for third.
In the quarterfinals, Wilson advanced past world's No.1-ranked Mikael Kingsbury when the Canadian lost a ski before the second jump.
It ended Kingsbury's streak of 19 straight podiums in World Cup moguls competitions.
"I went to the top and let out a breath," Wilson said of facing Bilodeau. "I don't remember anything after that."
In the semifinals he was neck and neck with Smyshlyaev and landed his jump while the Russian sat back on his landing.
"Honestly, I can't even explain it," Wilson said of his bronze, matching the one his older brother Bryon earned at the Vancouver Olympics. "It's a dream come true to do it here at Deer Valley, my home mountain."
He said he came into the competition needing a podium to qualify for world championships later this year.
"It's one of those things that you can't really explain," Wilson said. "You feel like you're in the zone, can't really remember much, and it's a dream come true, you know."
American Hannah Kearney continues living the dream, less than four months after being severely injured in a training accident.
She won the women's dual moguls, beating world No. 1 Justine Dufour-Lapointe of Canada.
Kearney also won moguls on Thursday but wasn't sure she should compete in duals two days later just a month after returning to competition.
"I haven't dueled since March and the last dual I lost, and they're always more challenging and anything can happen. So I was a little nervous to come back," Kearney acknowledged. "But it was time to ski duals and I felt really confident."
She said she almost felt too comfortable out there Saturday night, which meant she probably should have been going faster.
"It's a really fine line between skiing too fast and too slow. And I think I found the right balance. Justine ended up blowing up. She was pushing herself too hard," Kearney said of Dufour-Lapointe hitting a mogul too hard and slid between the kickers on one ski.
Part of that perhaps was skiing against Kearney, who last year in Deer Valley won No. 13 in her streak of 16 straight.
"She's a great dual skier and for every time you crash, there's going to be another time it works out for you," Kearney said. "I know she wants to beat me in duals, but you know what, I want to beat her just as much."
That Kearney feels even stronger before her injury probably isn't good news for the rest of the competitors.
She said she spent much of her recovery time getting as fit as possible.
"I feel fantastic physically," she said. "I think that's maybe what got it for me tonight. . Sometimes I get fatigued by the end of the season. This year I expect to build all the way through the end."