Canadian men have chance to go 1-2 in Olympic moguls, too

Canadian moguls skiers Mikael Kingsbury (left) and Alexandre Bilodeau are the favourites to top the...

Canadian moguls skiers Mikael Kingsbury (left) and Alexandre Bilodeau are the favourites to top the podium at the Sochi Olympics. (Reuters)

Rob Longley, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:04 PM ET

KRASNAYA POLYANA, RUSSIA - It may be shaping up as one of the best head-to-head battles in an individual sport at these Games.

Clinging to his status is the defending Olympic champion, we have a skier whose 'wow' factor was off the charts four years ago in Vancouver.

Threatening to swipe that crown is a young upstart, a precocious 21-year-old with youth and aggression on his side. Oh, and there's the fact he is the reigning world champion.

And the best part about this battle? It's all Canadian.

The showdown between Olympic champ Alex Bilodeau and world champion Mikael Kingsbury will take place here on Monday in yet another night of big potential for Canadian mogul skiers.

With the country still buzzing about the sensational Dufour-Lapointe sisters -- golden Justine and silver sibling Chloe -- less than 48 hours later, it will be the men's turn to hog the podium high up here at the Roza Khutor Extreme Sports Center.

Same sport as Saturday's one-two punch to start the Games off in style and same prospect for domination?

"I'm in the right position," Bilodeau said earlier this week as his preparations for the Sochi Games ramped up. "I'm really happy about it but on (Monday) it's going to be all to show what I can do.

"There's nothing that is a given so I need to work hard for it."

There's especially nothing given when you consider the epic rivalry he has had with his Canadian counterpart. How's this for a World Cup season in their sport so far?

In six events, the pair have three wins each with Bilodeau taking the most recent three and Kingsbury taking the rest. And in four of them, the margin of victory has been two points or less.

And now the equivalent of Game 7 in the biggest race of the sport. While Bilodeau feels he is stronger and slicker than he was on that magical night in Vancouver, his rival is equally in form.

"I think I can win any event if I ski at my best so I will focus to do the best run of my life," Kingsbury said. "If I do the job I know I can have a medal and maybe gold."

Bilodeau, of course, will forever hold a soft spot with Canadian fans after his performance in Vancouver when on the second full day of competition he defeated defending Olympic champion Dale Begg-Smith of Australia. It was Canada's first ever gold on home soil and it triggered what turned out to be a magical run for the host nation.

In the four years since, Bilodeau has gone from flirting with retirement to returning to his top form. Bilodeau took some time away from the sport in 2011-12 but returned the following year and immediately set Sochi as his target.

When Bilodeau was winning over a nation, Kingsbury was a 17-year-old spectator in Vancouver. Now he is the defending champion's biggest rival.

He was rookie of the year on the World Cup circuit in 2010 and earned his first victory that season. When Bilodeau was taking a break from the sport, Kingsbury charged in to assure that Canadians would still have a regular spot on the sport's podium.

That breakthrough season included a top three finish in all 13 events (eight gold, four silver and one bronze) in a spectacular run that also included six consecutive wins. When Bilodeau returned both to action and form over the next two seasons, the battle was on.

And the battle, equal parts foe and friends, will continue on Monday night with the world watching.

BATTLE FOR THIRD?

It's being billed as a race for bronze for the remainder of the competitors in Monday's men's moguls event and for good reason.

But don't try selling that line to American mogul maniac Patrick Deneen.

"It is not a fight just for third," Deneen said. "A lot of people could win this thing."

The evidence from the current World Cup season would suggest otherwise, however. In the six events so far, the dominant Canucks have split the titles with three golds apiece.

"We will have to see how events turn out, but (Kingsbury and Bilodeau) are pretty vulnerable."

rob.longley@sunmedia.ca


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