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Canada gets first gold, in moguls

WEST VANCOUVER, British Columbia - O Canada! They will sing it loud and proud, thanks to the unlikely upset pulled by Alexandre Bilodeau, who won the men's moguls last night to become the first Canadian to win Olympic gold inside the country's borders.

Showing all the speed and daring a skier needs to make some history, Bilodeau blazed through the slushy moguls, tore down the course in 23.17 seconds and posted a score of 26.75. That was .17 points better than defending champion Dale Begg-Smith, a Vancouver native who now competes for Australia.

Bryon Wilson of Butte, Mont., finished third.

"I don't think I really realize it," Bilodeau said. "It's too good to be true."

It has been nearly 34 years since the cauldron was first lit for the Summer Games in Montreal, and 22 since the last Canadian games in Calgary. And now the land of the Maple Leaf has its moment.

The victory came about 24 hours later than many thought it might - on the very same moguls course where favorite Jenn Heil, a Canadian, settled for silver Saturday night.

The country started a program called "Own the Podium" and poured $110 million into it, with the goal of winning the medal count here at the Vancouver Games. Canada's first gold brings the medal count up to three - still only half of what the leader, the United States, has won. But there's a lot of time left.

On a night made for raucous celebration, there was a poignant scene. Bilodeau's brother, Frederic, who suffers from cerebral palsy, cheered in a wheelchair near the bottom of the course behind the fence.

Bilodeau and Wilson were the only two men in the finals who dared try a back flip with two twists on the top jump. Begg-Smith has been dominating for years with less difficult jumps; though he executed them cleanly, he lost because he was more than a half-second slower.

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