American fans, both in attendance and watching on TV, also had little
reason to hope for an encore medal performance from their all-Olym-pic-rookie men’s team.
The smart money was on World Cup wonders Colas and Begg-Smith.
The latter had returned to the town in which he grew up to defend his
Once again, all Americans qualified for finals. There was a shocking
third-position run by Bryon Wilson, who moved up to the U.S. freestyle
A Team only in December.
When the lights came on for the final, Colas had claimed the anchor leg
ahead of Bilodeau, Wilson and Begg-Smith.
The first three Americans bent under the Olympic pressure. Nate Roberts got off course in the middle moguls section and Patrick Deneen lost
his balance in his bottom air and plowed through a course panel at the
bottom of the hill. Neither were given scores. Michael Morse’s low airs
scores and slow speed landed him in 15th place.
The crowd started getting into it when Quebec skier Vincent Marquis
(fourth), the eighth skier to run, grabbed the lead and held on until Wil-
Wilson stayed steady and even took his air-degree of difficulty up a
notch with back double full on the top jump; he crossed the line in second place.
“A year ago, I was just trying to make the Olympics,” said Wilson.
“When I was down there after my run, I knew I had a big one and a good
score. It was amazing.”
With Canadian fingers crossed, Bilodeau put down the run of a life-
time, edging Begg-Smith by 0.26 in speed score. After Colas drifted off
line on his second air, Bilodeau had done it, pushing Begg-Smith to the
silver medal spot.
“I don’t think I realize it yet it’s just too good to be true,” said Bilodeau,
who quickly took over all of Canadian TV and spent the next 24 hours
signing autographs, giving interviews and shaking hands with dignitaries.
The emotion hit Bilodeau when a TV reporter asked him about his
brother, who has cerebral palsy, waving in the audience. “My brother is
my inspiration,” said Bilodeau. “Growing up with handicapped people
puts everything back in perspective and I think he taught me so many
things in life.”