A source of inspirationWhen Jean-Luc Brassard took gold in the men’s moguls at Lillehammer 1994 a six-year-old Canadian boy by the name of Alexandre Bilodeau was watching intently on TV at home in Montreal. Inspired by his new-found idol, the youngster turned his attentions away from ice hockey and decided instead to devote his energies to skiing, and moguls in particular.
Bilodeau was 18 when he contested his first World Cup event at Tignes. In his third, which came on home soil at Mont Gabriel in January 2006, he topped the podium, becoming the youngest winner of a World Cup moguls event at the time. It was on the back of performances such as that he earned a trip to the Turin Games later that year, where he finished 11th in the final.
The road to gloryBilodeau swept all before him in 2008/09, scoring five wins in all, dominating in both dual moguls and the Olympic discipline, claiming a world title at Inawashiro (JAP) and taking the overall freestyle World Cup crown at the season’s end. One year on, on day three of Vancouver 2010, Bilodeau became a national hero, throwing a back double full on the first run of the Olympic moguls final and then serving up a crowd-pleasing back iron cross on the second to win Canada’s first gold medal of the XXI Winter Games. In doing so he edged Australia’s reigning Olympic champion Dale Begg-Smith into second and the USA’s Bryon Wilson into third.
A challenger emergesAt the 2011 FIS Freestyle World Ski Championships in Deer Valley (USA), Bilodeau won silver ahead of his compatriot Mikael Kingsbury in the moguls, and then got the better of the young pretender in the final of the dual event. The emergence of his rival from Quebec would force Bilodeau to raise his game, especially when Kingsbury won the 2012 and 2013 World Cup titles and beat him to moguls gold at the 2013 Worlds in Voss (NOR). Bilodeau got his revenge in the dual event, however, further intensifying a rivalry that was taking moguls skiing to new levels.
A crowning triumphThe Canadian star pulled out all the stops in the six-man final at Sochi 2014. Turning in a magnificent performance, he kept his knees tight together as he bobbed his way down the course, crossing his skis and spiralling high on the second jump before executing a flawless landing. In posting the fastest time ahead of Kingsbury, he became the first freestyler to retain an Olympic title.
Explaining his decision to retire at the end of the season, Bilodeau said: “I’m happy to be going out like this. Canadian freestyle skiing has a big future. There are a lot of youngsters who are coming through and I’m happy to be sharing the podium with one of them. Mikael’s going to win the lot when I leave. I’ve never skied as well as I have right now and that’s down to my team-mates, who push me hard in training. I can only thank them for that.”
In the very last race of his glittering career, in La Plagne (FRA) in March 2014, Bilodeau went out on a high beating Kingsbury in the dual moguls final to secure his 19th World Cup win and his 48th podium, eclipsing his hero Brassard in the process.