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June 26, 2017

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Bilodeau wins emotional moguls victory

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia -- 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."

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