Bilodeau grabs Canada's first gold

By Deborah Charles

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Alexandre Bilodeau, skiing under huge pressure, finally won Canada's first Olympic gold at a home Games when he snatched victory in a thrilling finale to the men's freestyle moguls on Sunday.

A day after his moguls team mate Jennifer Heil failed to live up to expectations and win Canada's first gold medal, Bilodeau stepped up and flew down the course at Cypress Mountain in a speedy, near flawless run.

After qualifying with the second best time, Bilodeau was the second to last to race.

His two jumps -- a double twisting back flip and a back flip with an iron cross -- were clean and his knees close together as he wove a tight path down the bump-filled course.

"I don't think I realize it yet -- it's too good to be true," said Bilodeau. "The party's just starting for Canada."

Canada had not won a gold at either of the previous Games it had staged in Montreal (Summer 1976) and Calgary (Winter 1988).

Bilodeau had to wait for France's Guilbaut Colas, the top finisher in the qualifying round, to complete his run before he knew he had won. Then he leapt to his feet and pumped his arms to the roaring crowd.

Defending champion Dale Begg-Smith, who is Canadian-born but has adopted Australian nationality, took the silver and American Bryon Wilson won the bronze.

After the qualifying round Bilodeau had said he was holding back and said he knew he "can step it up for this afternoon."

He did, to the delight of the roaring crowd which chanted his name, shouted "Canada, Canada" and jumped up and down.