When Alexandre Bilodeau stood at the top of the mogul hill for his final run Monday, he paused for just a minute, and then he swore.
He knew this would be the last run of his Olympic career. And he knew in order to defend his gold medal he would have to beat his teammate, Mikaël Kingsbury, and it would take the best performance of his career.
“A minute before I went down, I said ‘F–– it,’ sorry for my language, ‘F–– it, just have fun. It’s your last run. I’ve worked hard for it, enjoy it,’” he said after. “When I crossed that finish line, I was, ‘Damn, yeah.’ I’ve dreamed about that and it feels so much better than Vancouver.”
He did indeed do his best and finished a stunning Olympic career that stretches back to the 2006 Games in Turin, where he placed 11th, to the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, where he took gold. And now to Sochi, gold again at 26, the first freestyle skier to win back-to-back gold in Olympic history.
“It was a perfect run for me. I can’t do any better,” he said.
Kingsbury finished second, giving Canada a remarkable gold and silver in both the men’s and women’s moguls events.
The depth of the team was stunning. Half the men in the final six were Canadians, with Marc-Antoine Gagnon finishing fourth Monday. Canada also had four men and three women in the top 12. And the entire team was from Quebec.
“It’s amazing,” Maxime Dufour-Lapointe said as she watched the men compete. Also in the crowd were her sisters, Justine and Chloé, who won gold and silver, respectively, last Saturday.
For Kingsbury, 21, the silver medal capped off a dream that started 10 years ago, when he pasted a picture of the Olympic rings on his bedroom ceiling with the words “I will win” on it.
“I wrote that when I was 10 or 11 years old,” he said after Monday’s competition. “It was my biggest dream to win the Olympics. Now, I’m silver and I’m going to keep it on top of my bed until I get the gold. It’s on the ceiling so when I sleep, I can watch it.”
But for one slip at the end of his run, Kingsbury would have won.
His mother, Julie Thibaudeau, stood crying after the race, so eager to embrace her son she climbed over a fence to get to him.
“It’s amazing I have no words,” said Thibaudeau, who had tucked a pack of her son’s favourite red, sour candies in his bag with a note that said: “Just enjoy it.”
She recalled the times her young son would skip school to hang out at the ski hill when the moguls World Cup tour came to Quebec. Kingsbury didn’t just watch, he took the chair lift with the athletes, asking questions and picking up English along the way.
As for Bilodeau, he said he will retire at the end of the season, knowing he simply can’t hold off Kingsbury.
“I know that guy can deliver a better run than me, he’s got more talent,” he said of his friend and rival.
Bilodeau’s brother, and inspiration, Frédéric, who has cerebral palsy, rushed over for a hug after the competition, barely able to contain his joy. Throughout the night, Frédéric stood up and cheered wildly every time Bilodeau came down the hill.
“He is a great inspiration and a great person,” Bilodeau said of his older brother. “He is going to be an inspiration for me for my after career also.”
And what’s next for the two-time gold medalist in a daredevil sport? A career in accounting. Just like his father, Serge.
When asked if he really wanted to be an accountant after years spent defying gravity and escaping danger in moguls, Bilodeau smiled and said: “Yeah. It’s surprising, but there’s great challenge [in accounting]. I love the business world and there are great challenges.
“I’ve done what I could do in the sport and I need to see if I can do something else in life.”