Canada's Alex Bilodeau takes gold in men's moguls, first two-time freestyle Olympic champion

The Associated Press

Canada's Alex Bilodeau, right, celebrates with compatriot Mikael Kingsbury after after Bilodeau won gold and Kingsbury took silver in the men's moguls final at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

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By WILL GRAVES, AP Sports Writer

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Alex Bilodeau carried the Canadian flag along with the prodigy who pushed him to history. Moments later, the greatest moguls skier of his time bearhugged his inspiration, pulling him over the fence in the process.

The first two-time Olympic gold medalist in freestyle skiing will take the hardware, just not the credit.

Slashing through the slush in snow better suited for a Slurpee, Bilodeau fended off teammate Mikael Kingsbury to capture his second straight Olympic title Monday night, then celebrated with older brother Frederic, whose life with cerebral palsy provides a daily reality check on the considerable gifts Bilodeau has been granted.

"He has dreams like you and I but he can't go after most of those dreams," Bilodeau said. "I have the ability that I can go after those dreams. And out of respect for him, I go after them."

Kingsbury claimed silver to give Canada its second one-two moguls finish in three days, while Russia's Alexandr Smyshlyaev won bronze in front of a frenzied crowd waving the home country's red-white-and-blue flags.

"It's victory," Smyshlyaev said. "It's one big victory for Russian moguls."

Considering the stranglehold Canada has on the sport at the moment, bronze is as good as gold for everybody else.

In one final stand on the world stage, Bilodeau put together what he called the finest run in a career that includes being the first Canadian to win Olympic gold on home soil four years ago in Vancouver.

Racing fourth in the six-man final, his blazing yet graceful sprint down Rosa Khutor Extreme Park resulted in an eye-popping score of 26.31.

"I know that guy can put down a better run than me, he's got more talent than I do," Bilodeau said of Kingsbury. "I just wanted to go out and do the best I could and see if I could put some pressure on."

Standing atop the hill, Kingsbury watched the familiar scene unfold. The world's two best moguls skiers have been playing tug-of-war for No. 1 in the world for the better part of three years. Yet Kingsbury's attempt to yank gold out of Bilodeau's hands ended halfway down the mountain, where a small spreading of the knees in a discipline that requires them to be attached like magnets ended any hopes of reaching the top of the podium.

"I felt pretty good at the top of the gate," Kingsbury said. "I wasn't going for silver or bronze. I was going for gold and I made a small mistake."

Not Bilodeau, who figured only perfection would do while facing "that guy," as he calls him — the man who has pushed him in ways he never imagined.

"I really wanted to defend my medal," Bilodeau said. "But there was no way I was expecting to ski that way. And that's because of that kid. If he wasn't here, I wouldn't have pushed that hard."

At times, it appeared both were intimidated by the stage. While they dominated qualifying, they were hardly sharp in the first knockout round.

Kingsbury slogged to one of the slowest times of the competition while Bilodeau nearly fell on his backside after landing his first jump and finished eighth, uncomfortably close to the 12-man cutoff.

Still, it ultimately came down to what is has repeatedly come down to in most of the past four years, the 26-year-old Bilodeau against the 21-year-old Kingsbury in a fight for supremacy.

In the end, it wasn't close. The final margin was the moguls equivalent of a three-touchdown blowout in football. Kingsbury flashed a wry smile after crossing the finish line, knowing he'd been beaten. The two friendly rivals embraced, though it was Bilodeau who flashed the "No. 1" sign during the flower ceremony.

It's a title Bilodeau — who is retiring at the end of the season — figures he won't hold for long.

"That kid next to me is going to win two in a row also," he said while pointing to Kingsbury.

The experience of surviving in less than perfect conditions will only help.