olympic sports

Sochi recap: Freestyle skiing, men’s moguls

Oh Canada. The two big favorites came through, and Russia picked up a surprise bronze. The two American contenders were undone by catastrophe and conservative jumps.

Date: 10-Feb

Sport: Freestyle skiing

Event: Men’s moguls

Medalists: Alex Bilodeau (Canada), Mikael Kingsbury (Canada), Alexandr Smyshlyaev (Russia)

SportsMyriad projections: Mikael Kingsbury (Canada), Alex Bilodeau (Canada), Patrick Deneen (USA)

How U.S. fared: Bradley Wilson got to the first final round (20 skiers) but crashed on his first landing. Incredibly, he popped up and still posted a fast time, but the damage to his score was done, and he didn’t advance.

Patrick Deneen, the 2009 world champion, bailed on his first qualification round but led the second qualifier (22.38 points) to cruise into the final rounds. He wasn’t great in the first final round (22.27) but advanced in ninth place. He turned it up a notch in the second final round (12 skiers), getting down the course quickly and surprising with a strong first jump to get 23.32 points. A conservative second jump nearly cost him a spot in the third and final final (sic), but he grabbed the last spot.

Deneen went first in the final and once again went very fast, racking up time points. But he had a difficult first landing and again had a conservative second jump, good for only 22.16 points.

What happened: It was a compressed day of competition — two qualification rounds (excluding the lucky 10 who qualified from the first round), then three final rounds. The qualification rounds were in soft snow, and many skiers struggled with their landings and turns. Australia’s Dale Begg-Smith, 2006 gold medalist and 2010 silver medalist, didn’t complete a clean run and failed to advance.

Canada’s Alex Bilodeau had a shaky run in the first final but got through in eighth place. Japanese contender Sho Endo did not, despite landing one of the more spectacular jumps of the competition, with more twists than most people can count with the naked eye.

In the second final, which cut the field down from 12 to six, Bilodeau came back with 23.89 points. Two of his Canadian teammates, Mikael Kingsbury (24.54) and Marc-Antoine Gagnon (24.16) bested that mark and left Deneen sweating on the qualification bubble. But the fourth Canadian, Philippe Marquis, came up short and looked surprised when the scores were announced. That left three Canadians, Deneen, Kazakhstan’s Dmitry Reiherd and Russia’s Alexandr Smyshlyaev in the final.

After Deneen’s run, Reiherd landed a fancy twisting second jump to move into first. Smyshlyaev beat that with a sensational run for 24.34 points.

Up came the Canadians. Defending champion Bilodeau set a very high bar at 26.31. But Gagnon spoiled the sweep possibility at 23.35, finishing behind Smyshlyaev. It all came down to favorite Kingsbury, who did exactly the same jumps as Bilodeau but was a little off on the first landing. It was 24.71 for Kingsbury, and it was a Canadian 1-2.

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