Canada’s medal hopes are very alive on Monday in Sochi as defending Olympic champion Alex Bilodeau goes head-to-head with 21-year-old Mikaël Kingsbury at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.
Canada’s first home gold medallist leads the FIS overall freestyle skiing World Cup table with Kingsbury very close behind. And they’re dominating. In the moguls category, they have more Cup points between them than the next five competitors combined.
The pair have come first and second in five of the last six moguls World Cups in 2013-14, with Bilodeau getting the victory in the previous three straight. Mikaël won the first three, and also 2013 World Championships at the end of last season.
Bilodeau says the competition between them is driving results, “It’s amazing to be a part of a team this special. You learn from the best, training with these guys pushes me everyday. Every race we all want to have the best time, the biggest air, the the highest degree of difficulty. It’s all about competition even on training days, that’s how we become very good, that’s how we sweep podiums.”
During a World Cup at Deer Valley in early January, Kingsbury topped the podium followed by Bilodeau with silver and Terrebonne, Quebec’s Marc-Antoine Gagnon in third. It was only Gagnon’s second World Cup medal. They took a Canada scarf onto the podium and raised it in the air.
But for now, the focus is on the Olympic Winter Games and if two Quebec-natives can continue their dominance on the biggest stage.
For Kingsbury, this season has been another great one. He hardly ever misses the podium at World Cup events, with 35 top-3 finishes since 2011. This is evidence of talent of course, but the resolve and focus required to be that consistent for so long is motivated by something more, “It’s pretty crazy, I’ve been dreaming of this, (the Olympics), since I watched the 2002 Olympic Games. I’m very proud of myself and what I’ve accomplished in the last couple of years, to be standing next to Alex and Marc. There are no words to describe it.”
2010’s memorable Olympic champion is solidly on track. If there’s a question of whether Bilodeau has anything left to accomplish, his results and attitude show he has placed a target on 2014. And with those three straight victories, he’s honing in at the right time.
But he’s up against 2013’s defending World champion, and there’s no ignoring what this season’s results suggest, “It’s game 7 between Alex and I in Sochi. I’ve got three wins, he’s got three wins. I’m really excited to go to my first Olympic Games. I just want to have fun and have the performance of a lifetime. If I do that, I’ll be happy with any result.”
If the apparent rivalry is beneficial for the athletes, the same goes for Canadian Olympic fans. There’s a good chance two fellow citizens could be on the Sochi podium, with the order likely determined on a snowy night in Russia.
WHAT: Men’s moguls
WHEN: Monday, February 10th with qualification starting at 9:00 am ET / 6:00 am PT
WATCH: #WeAreWinter: Mikaël Kingsbury Canadian Olympic journey | Sochi 2014