Four days ago, Alex Beaulieu-Marchand couldn't even practise.
An injured back — possibly suffered on the plane to South Korea — along with a sore left knee limited his time on the training course. He had also suffered a concussion in December while preparing for the Dew Tour in Colorado.
But the Canadian freestyle skier was able to push his limits, and it paid off with a bronze medal in the men's slopestyle competition on Sunday at the Pyeongchang Olympics.
"You know, after everything that happened to me — the injuries, there were so many — I couldn't believe it," Beaulieu-Marchand said. "I would have never thought it was possible to have such a beautiful performance in a competition as intense as that."
The 23-year-old from Quebec City scored 92.40 on his second run to finish behind gold medallist Oystein Braaten of Norway, who scored 95.00. American Nick Goepper was second after collecting 93.60 points on his final run, bumping Beaulieu-Marchand out of the silver-medal position.
Beaulieu-Marchand said he had his best ever ski on Sunday.
"Today was an unreal contest, the craziest contest I have ever seen," he said. "I came here just to show the world what I can do on my skis and that's what I did."
In slopestyle, each skier has three runs down a course that features rails and jumps. Their best score counts.
Beaulieu-Marchand skied well throughout the final, scoring 81.60 on his first run and 82.40 on his third.
"The jumps I was landing so consistently, those are jumps I have barely practised," he said. "I did more triple flips today than I had done in my entire life."
With the injuries piling up, Beaulieu-Marchand felt the key to his success was listening to his body.
"Before the competition, instead of participating in training, I stayed in the room reserved for athletes," he said. "The guys asked me: 'What are you doing here? You should be on the course, no?' So instead of skiing, I was biking and I believe the key for me today was taking care of my body.
"I couldn't ski in training so I just watched what the others were doing. From that moment, I knew what I had to concentrate on."
Teal Harle of Campbell River, B.C., had 90.00 points in his final run to finish fifth. Evan McEachran of Oakville, Ont., scored 89.40 points in sixth place.
Beaulieu-Marchand said he's come a long way from the Sochi Games four years ago when he finished 12th.
"I was young, 19 years old, not in the right state of mind," he said. "Here, I didn't care about the results at all. I was here just for my skiing and that helped a lot.
"Back then I was stressing a lot, just trying to make it as a pro skier."
He said he told himself Sunday that an Olympic medal wouldn't define him.
"If I had crashed in qualies would that have made me less of a good skier? Now everyone is like, 'Yes, cool, he got a bronze medal' but would that (a crash) have made me less of a hard-working person?" he said. "I don't think so. For me the medal isn't necessarily what I was going for.
"Had the others landed and bumped me into fourth or fifth place I would have been happy anyway because I skied the best in my life today."
Beaulieu-Marchand hopes his success will make other kids want to take up the sport.
"Hopefully it's inspired a new generation to come and have fun with us on the slopes," he said.
— With files from Canadian Press reporter Alexandre Geoffrion-McInnis
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