Reigning Olympic champion Alexandre Bilodeau and a trio of history-making sisters are headlining Canada’s freestyle ski team roster for the Sochi Olympics.
Bilodeau, from Montreal, won his third straight World Cup moguls event over the weekend, edging out teammate and rival Mikael Kingsbury of Deux-Montagnes, Que.
Kingsbury and Marc-Antoine Gagnon of Terrebonne, Que., were also named to the early 20-athlete nomination list Monday by the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association.
“I am ready to hit the slopes of Russia and show the world why Canada is a force to be reckoned with,” Bilodeau said. “The Canadian Olympic freestyle team is totally focused. These Games belong to Canada.”
He acknowledged he’ll be going to Sochi feeling a little less pressure than he did in Vancouver four years ago.
“In Vancouver, I showed up with a gun to my head,” he said. “I wanted a medal. I put a lot of pressure on myself. Fortunately, I managed to pull myself together after working hard with my sports psychologist a week before the Games. Now, in Sochi, the work is done.”
Bilodeau said he’s heading to Norway to tweak a few things and plans to enjoy the experience when he arrives in Russia. He has said Sochi will be his last Olympics and he admits there’s a little wistfulness about that.
“I’m going to take every moment and remember it and I think there will be good moments, especially with the two gentlemen who will be accompanying me,” he said, referring to Kingsbury and Gagnon. “We’re going to have fun.”
The women’s moguls team includes Montreal sisters Chloe, Justine and Maxime Dufour-Lapointe along with Audrey Robichaud of Quebec City. Chloe and Justine finished 1-2 over the weekend at a World Cup in Val St-Come, Que.
Canadian Olympic Committee president Marcel Aubut said it’s the first time in the world — not just Canada — where three siblings have competed on the same Olympic team in the same event.
“I always hoped that I would be able to represent the nation by doing what I love,” said Justine Dufour-Lapointe. “To be able to say that I am now doing that is a dream come true. I can’t wait to represent Canada in Sochi.”
Eldest sister Maxime, who was the last to qualify, said she wasn’t surprised at getting a berth.
“Honestly, I never had a doubt,” she said. “It’s been my objective since May. That was clear. I planned the entire season — travel, training, racing. I knew exactly what to expect and gave it my all. When it came time to race this season, I was ready.
“All my attention has been on one thing — my skiing,” she added. “I really stuck to my plan because I knew it would work for me.”
Kingsbury, who is the main contender to Bilodeau’s throne, and Gagnon admitted they were excited to pull on their team jackets.
“For sure I’m going there on a mission but at the same time I want to enjoy the moment,” said Kingsbury.
“I’m not just there to win the gold medal. I want to have fun. I want to have the run of my life and I know that if I accomplish that, I have a chance to win the gold medal.”
Gagnon said he was relieved to see his work pay off.
“It’s been a lot of work for four years, a lot of stress, especially during the last two years,” he said. “But I always believed in my chances and I continued to work. Here, after finally managing to qualify, it’s a big ‘Yes!’ inside me.”
World champion Kaya Turski of Montreal and Dara Howell of Huntsville, Ont., headline the women’s slopestyle team. They’re joined by Quebec City’s Kim Lamarre and Yuki Tsubota of Whistler, B.C.
Alex Beaulieu-Marchand of Quebec City will compete in men’s slopestyle.
Calgary’s Roz Groenewoud anchors the women’s halfpipe team. She’s joined by Megan Gunning of Calgary and Keltie Hansen of Edmonton.
The men’s halfpipe lineup includes Edmonton’s Mike Riddle, Matt Margetts of Penticton, B.C., and Justin Dorey and Noah Bowman, both of Calgary.
World silver medallist Travis Gerritts of Milton, Ont., will be the lone competitor in men’s aerials.
The International Ski Federation (FIS) allocates up to 26 quota spots for each nation for all five freestyle disciplines. The remaining spots for the deep Canadian team are expected to be filled Jan. 27 when the skicross team is unveiled.
The Sochi Games will be held Feb. 7-23.