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Freestyle Skiing

Bilodeau scores one for the home team

By Eddie Pells
Associated Press / February 15, 2010

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WEST VANCOUVER, British Columbia - O Canada!

They will sing it loud and proud, thanks to the unlikely upset pulled by Alexandre Bilodeau, who won the men’s moguls last night to become the first Canadian to capture Olympic gold inside the country’s borders.

Showing all the speed and daring a skier needs to make history, Bilodeau blazed through the slushy moguls, tore down the course in 23.17 seconds and posted a score of 26.75. That was .17 points better than defending champion Dale Begg-Smith, a Vancouver native who now competes for Australia.

Bryon Wilson of the United States finished third. When the final skier, Guilbaut Colas of France, had his sixth-place score flashed on the board, the Canadian crowd went crazy.

“I don’t think I really realize it,’’ Bilodeau said. “It’s too good to be true.’’

It has been nearly 34 years since the cauldron was first lit for the Summer Games in Montreal, and 22 since the last Canadian games in Calgary.

And now, the land of the Maple Leaf has its moment.

It’s a moment that will be played and replayed for the next two weeks and beyond - one to be celebrated again today, when Bilodeau receives his medal in a ceremony down in Vancouver and “O Canada’’ is piped into the medals plaza.

The Canadian gold came about 24 hours later than many thought it might - on the very same moguls course where favorite Jenn Heil, a Canadian, settled for silver Saturday night.

On a night for raucous celebration, there was a poignant scene, as well - one of Bilodeau’s brothers, Frederic, who suffers from cerebral palsy, cheering in a wheelchair near the bottom of the course behind the fence.

It was the same fence Bilodeau crashed into at the bottom, after he sped through the final bumps to finish a run that teetered precariously between control and chaos. He stayed up when it counted, though, and in the end, it was his risk-taking that made a difference.

He and Wilson were the only two men in the finals who dared try a backflip with two twists on the top jump. Begg-Smith has been dominating for years with less difficult jumps; though he executed them cleanly, he lost because he was more than a half-second slower.

Wilson wasn’t even a member of America’s “A’’ team to start this season, but earned a start in two World Cup events when a teammate got hurt and finished second in both. That gave him an Olympic spot, and he took advantage.