Park City • The snow just began to fall, but atop the Champion run at Deer Valley Resort the wintry mix morphed into ice as the combination whipped into the face of Alexandre Bilodeau. The 26-year-old Canadian moguls star from Quebec looked out at the massive sea of spectators and took his final run down.
One of several stellar stories of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Bilodeau, the first Canadian to ever win a gold medal on Canadian soil, will hang up the skis after Sochi.
1. Alex Bilodeau, Canada (82.06)
2. Mikael Kingsbury, Canada (81.83)
3. Alexandr Smyshlyaev, RUS (79.33)
4. Patrick Denee, USA (79.00)
5. Marc-Antoine Gagnon, CAN (78.96)
6. Sho Kashima, USA (75.80)
1. Hannah Kearney, USA (84.03)
2. Yulia Galysheva, KAZ (79.86)
3. Maxime Dufour-LaPointe, Canada (79.13)
4. Eliza Outtrim, USA (75.40)
5. Heidi Kloser, USA (73.80)
6. Britteny Cox, AUS (59.00)
So appropriately, he bid adieu to one of his favorite runs — one that plays better tricks than most across the globe — with a World Cup victory in Saturday’s VISA Freestyle World Cup finale at Deer Valley.
"It’s a very hard course, but it’s an amazing course at the same time," Bilodeau said. "I always compare Deer Valley to the Winter Classic of hockey for us [Canadians]."
Says a lot.
After he shocked the world in Vancouver with gold, Bilodeau, 22 at the time, wanted another go at the Games. He wanted a chance to defend his gold medal. But now at the ripe age of 26, obviously still atop his game, the Canadian star will put a period end-stop on the end of his career after Sochi.
"I’ve done everything in my power to be ready for these Olympics, and after that we’ll have other goals in life and we’ll move on," he said, "but it’s been an amazing journey."
But having a slew of young, talented Canadians below him only furthers the drive for one last gold in Russia in a few weeks. Mikael Kingsbury, Marc-Antoine Gagnon and Simon Lemieux are part of a star-studded men’s moguls team that has sky-high aspirations in Sochi. Kingsbury, the World Cup leader, finished second behind Bilodeau on Saturday night, while Russian Alexandr Smyshlyaev finished third.
"It’s motivating to have young kids like that pushing me every run in training, every run in competition, and what’s funny about it — Mikael’s won everything, but we’ve both landed the best of our runs at the same time," Bilodeau said. "Today we both missed at the same time and we still finished first and second."
American Hannah Kearney’s 101st career World Cup start turned out to be one of her best of the World Cup circuit. The 27-year-old Vermont native won her second World Cup moguls event in three days at Deer Valley. Her 39th career World Cup win was fueled, in large part, as a dry run for Sochi.
Taking her Superfinal run last, as she typically does, she looked out the throng of fans.
"You can see, feel and hear the crowd," Kearney said. "I used it as practice — I thought there’s a chance this is a larger crowd than we’ll have at the Olympics; certainly more people cheering for me then there are going to be at the Olympics, so I used it. I tried to put on a show."
The defending women’s mogul gold medalist topped Yulia Galysheva of Kazakhstan and Canadian Maxime Dufour-LaPointe, who finished second and third, respectively.
A perfectionist in her own right, Kearney’s 59th World Cup podium suddenly turned into a film study session moments after her winning run came to a complete stop. She looked at the video replay on the big screen below the moguls run to see she needed to grab her skis on the bottom jump earlier in order to earn more style points from the judges.
"There’s absolutely always something to be fixed or improve upon," she said. "That’s how I’ll move forward."
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