BEIJING — Mikael Kingsbury wrote the names of his friends and family members in his helmet before he bounced and flew his way to a moguls silver medal on Saturday.
The 29-year-old freestyle skiing superstar said he needed to feel their presence.
"They were with me," Kingsbury said, the morning after his event. "I knew they weren't going to be here in Beijing and I wanted to compete and know they were going to be with me."
Another Olympics, in a parallel non-pandemic universe, would have seen Kingsbury's loved ones — including mom Julie, dad Maxime, sister Audrey and his girlfriend Laurence Mongeon — waiting and cheering at the bottom of the bone-rattling run at Zhangjiakou Genting Snow Park.
But COVID-19 restrictions meant no international fans were permitted at the Beijing Games.
The skier from Deux-Montagnes, Que., called them as soon as he'd competed.
"It's awesome when you get the chance to chat to them right after the event," Kingsbury said. "And yeah, it was a beautiful phone call. I miss my girlfriend, I miss my family, my friends, and I can't wait to go home and share that medal with them.
"They've been such a huge part of my journey to the Olympic Games. And they played a big role for me getting here, had to make a lot of sacrifices (for me) to be able to compete here, they've been a big part of it and they've done such an amazing job. I can't wait to celebrate with them."
Kingsbury has been the most dominant moguls skier on the planet for the better part of the last decade, recently skiing to his 100th World Cup podium finish.
For a few minutes on Saturday, he appeared poised to capture his second Olympic gold after posting a score of 82.18, the highest score of any of the five rounds.
But the last man in the start gate, Sweden's Walter Wallberg, laid down a victorious run of 83.23.
Kingsbury said some pacing goes into the long Olympic competition, which has one more run than World Cup moguls.
"So, you have to be very intelligent with your strategy just in order to get to the top six . . . the goal is just to get to the top six and this is where you get the chance to win a medal," Kingsbury said.
Kingsbury said he might have been a little slower than he would've liked on his final run — scores are 60 per cent based on mogul turn technique, 20 per cent on the quality of the jumps, and 20 per cent on speed.
"But on the jump side and on technique, it was the best I could do for the conditions, because it was wasn't easy out there, it was very cold . . . and one of the hardest courses we competed on in the last four years," Kingsbury said. "So, I'm just proud of the way I dealt with the pressure and the build-up towards the big round, and to be able to put down my best run when it matters, this is huge for me and I'm very proud of myself."
The temperature plunged to a frigid minus-18 C before the windchill on Saturday night.
Canada has captured four of the nine Olympic titles in men's moguls, with Jean-Luc Brassard claiming gold in 1994 and Alexandre Bilodeau skiing to victory in 2010 and '14.
Kingsbury had hoped to follow in Bilodeau's footsteps by winning consecutive titles.
He could give it another whirl in four years in Milan. Does he have another Olympic quadrennial in him?
"I am 29, I'm not getting any younger," Kingsbury said. "I have a very good team around me with Freestyle Canada, all my coaches and my mental trainer, everyone back home that's supporting me, very amazing sponsors that are supporting me also. So, I feel pretty lucky to be in the position that I am right now.
"I'm still passionate and motivated about my sport. I still feel like I have some good skiing inside me. But I don't want to think too far. I'll go one year at a time, and if I'll make it to Italy, to 2026, I'll be ready.
"And yeah, let's keep that trend going. I have a silver, gold, silver. So, if we follow that trend, the next one should be gold."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 6, 2022.