Bilodeau could return to old training ground in Whistler 

Former Olympian John Smart at Cypress to cheer on old students

Alex Bilodeau may be back in Whistler this summer showing young kids just what it takes to be an Olympic champion.

It was here that he first honed his skills as a moguls freestyle skier at Momentum Ski Camps on Blackcomb Glacier when he was just 11 years old.

"He always just wanted to be a moguls skier, nothing else," remembered camp owner and former moguls Olympian John Smart of the young Bilodeau. "There's no question about it.

"I really hope he does (come back as a champion)."

But life as the 22-year-old skier once knew it is now over.

He is a household name in Canada after a performance Sunday night that had Canadians across the country jumping to their feet and cheering.

Canadians let him know exactly how they felt again at Monday's medals ceremony in Vancouver where 22,000 fans cheered the presentation of his gold medal.

"He didn't just win gold for moguls skiing," said Smart. "He won gold for a country that was starving for a gold medal... I don't know what that means (for his future)."

For the time being, however, Smart is reveling in the high of Bilodeau's performance and remembering the boy that came to his camp for three years running to learn from the best.

He came back again when he was 15 to chaperone his 10-year-old sister Beatrice, also a moguls skier.

To be at Cypress Sunday with his own family, his wife and former Olympian Julia Smart and his two young boys was an unbelievable experience, he said.

"The crowd was phenomenal," he said.

"To be able to witness Canada behaving like this... the support was just unbelievable."

Not only had Smart coached Bilodeau at Momentum, some of the closest competitors at Cypress vying for gold in 2010 were also former students.

Smart personally coached Dale Begg-Smith when he lived in Whistler. The skier, who now races for Australia, took home silver in the competition.

American Patrick Deneen, also a medal contender, was another Momentum student. He fell on his run and Smart, who competed in the 1992 and 1994 Olympics, knew exactly how Deneen felt.

"It's just the most sickening thing to go through," he said of crashing in a big race.

If there's any thought at all that Bilodeau did not deserve to win, as suggested this week by an Australian official, Smart put that quickly to rest.

"He won it hands down, without question," he said, adding that not only did he have a faster time down the course, his jumps were tougher too. Bilodeau's jumps included a double full twist back flip off the top jump.

"I was super proud of what he just did under that pressure," said Smart.

Smart's camp, Momentum, is designed to bring world-renowned champions to the glacier to teach young kids.

Though he knows that Bilodeau's life has changed, Smart can't help but hope he will come back to inspire other young kids. He has, after all, now put moguls skiing on the map.

"He will be a new icon," said Smart.

"His life is going to completely change from here on in."

 

 

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