Bilodeau snaps Canada gold drought

Mon Feb 15, 2010 12:28pm EST
 
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By Deborah Charles

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Alexandre Bilodeau, skiing under huge pressure, finally won Canada's first Olympic gold at a home Games when he snatched victory in a thrilling finale to the men's freestyle moguls on Sunday.

A day after his moguls team mate Jennifer Heil failed to live up to expectations and win Canada's first gold medal, Bilodeau stepped up and flew down the course at Cypress Mountain in a speedy, near flawless run.

After qualifying with the second best time, Bilodeau was the second to last to race. Coming into the race he was not the gold medal favorite but he showed he had the goods as he performed the toughest trick of the night.

His two jumps -- a double twisting back flip and a back flip with an iron cross -- were clean and his knees close together as he wove a tight path down the bump-filled course.

"I don't think I realize it yet -- it's too good to be true," said Bilodeau. "The party's just starting for Canada."

Canada had not won a gold at either of the previous Games it staged in Montreal (Summer 1976) and Calgary (Winter 1988).

The 22-year-old Canadian, who won with 26.75 points, said he did not feel any special pressure to bring home the first gold but said his training mate Heil had inspired him.

"I was nervous but I was comfortable. Probably the most comfortable I've ever been. I went for it."   Continued...

 
<p>Canada's Alexandre Bilodeau yells out while holding the Canadian flag after winning the gold medal during the men's freestyle skiing moguls on Cypress Mountain at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics February 14, 2010. REUTERS/Mike Blake</p>