2014 Winter Olympics Preview: Freestyle Skiing
By Gerard Gallagher, Olympics Writer
(SportsNetwork.com) - Canadians who showed up at Cypress Mountain in West Vancouver four years ago to watch Alexandre Bilodeau drop into his moguls run with a techo song blasting over the speakers were hoping for better luck.
On the same hill the night before, American Hannah Kearney overtook Canada's Jennifer Heil on the last run to win the women's mogul competition.
So when Bilodeau hit his first mogul, Canada still hadn't seen one of its athletes win an Olympic gold medal on home soil -- not in Montreal in 1976 or in Calgary in 1988 or, until that night, in Vancouver.
Bilodeau won, beating Vancouver-born millionaire Dale Begg-Smith, who skis for Australia. It was the first of a Winter Olympics-record 14 gold medals won by Canada at the Vancouver Games.
Bilodeau and Kearney are back to lead the two North American freestyle skiing teams at the Sochi Olympics.
Heil, who won gold in the women's moguls in 2006 before losing to Kearney four years later, has since retired. Canada will also be without 2012 aerials World Cup champion Olivier Rochon after he tore ligaments in his knee.
Jeret Peterson, the American aerials star who won silver in 2006 with his "Hurricane" trick, died 17 months later of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Peterson had competed for the U.S. in the last three Winter Olympics.
Still, hopes are high again for Canadian and American skiers, who have traditionally dominated the freestyle competition. They will have a chance to win even more medals after two events were added for Sochi.
Halfpipe and slopestyle, so popular at the Winter X Games, will make their Olympic debuts this year, joining moguls, aerials and skicross in the freestyle skiing competition.
Spectators will be familiar with the halfpipe event, but slopestyle should seem new. Like its snowboarding counterpart, it features skiers doing tricks over rails and jumps on a trail.
The youngest athlete on Team USA is a slopestyle skier, 15-year-old Maggie Voisin.
Freestyle skiing starts Feb. 6, the day before the opening ceremony, with ladies' moguls qualification and runs through Feb. 21.
01/29 16:07:24 ET