Canadian Philippe Marquis shows resiliency in qualifying for men's moguls final

Event favourite, Canada's Mikael Kingsbury, enters medal round in 1st

Canadian Philippe Marquis shows resiliency in qualifying for men's moguls final
Despite skiing on a torn ACL, Canada's Philippe Marquis qualified eighth in men's moguls at the Winter Olympics on Friday in Pyeongchang, South Korea. © Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press

By CBC Sports

Despite tearing his left ACL less than one month ago, Canada's Philippe Marquis qualified for the Olympic men's moguls final on Friday in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Marquis, from Quebec City, Que., native, finished with 77.77 points for eighth place, less than 10 behind Canadian event favourite Mikael Kingsbury, who scored 86.07 points to finish atop the qualifying round.

Canada's Marc-Antoine Gagnon finished 11th in the qualifying round (76.32), just outside the automatic qualification slots in the top 10. He will have one more chance to qualify before the medal round on Sunday in South Korea.

"I couldn't miss the Games. It's been so much hard work, commitment and great results these last four years with Mik and Marc," said Marquis. "I wanted to do as much as I could to get to the 'Big Show' and as soon as I said that, everyone got behind me. I'm here because of the team: the doctors, staff, coaches and my teammates all stepped up with their support."

Meanwhile, Kingsbury was sure not to get ahead of himself after his successful qualifying run.

"I tried not to push too hard, but set a good time and not make many mistakes," said Kingsbury. "I'm very happy with my skiing. My goal was just to get to the next round and I feel I did my job."

Russia's Aleksandr Smyshliaev was second with 83.93 points and Dmitriy Reikherd of Kazakhstan was third with 81.23.

What ACL?

Before his run, Marquis grabbed his gloves and a Sharpie and started writing. He scribbled "Engage" on his left thumb, "Fire" on his right thumb and added "What ACL" and "Keep Fighting" on the underside of his wrists because, hey, he was on a roll.

Usually, the 28-year-old isn't into self-help stuff. He hasn't needed it during a career that'd been largely devoid of injury until his bad bounce in Deer Valley, Utah.

Still, there Marquis was in the starting gate at Phoenix Snow Park on Friday morning during Olympic qualifying, his mere presence a testament to his own stubbornness, the expert care of the Canadian medical staff and copious amounts of tape.

During the ensuing 250-metre sprint through a series of rock-hard bumps — with a pair of jumps thrown in for good measure — Marquis focused only on his form and his hands, the ones with the reminders of why he's here in the first place.

Fire. Engage. Fight.

"No weak moments," Marquis said. "No moment where I'm just doing nothing. It sounds stupid but it's easy for a millisecond to be kind of just like `flow,' but for me I've got to be engaged and committed to what I do."

Only at the finish line following an aggressively elegant 26.12-second sprint did Marquis relax, raising his gloved hands to the sky and taking just a moment to realize how insane this whole thing is in the first place. A month ago he never imagined he'd be here. Now he's assured of a spot in the final.

"Whatever the outcome here at the Olympics, just today to make it from top to bottom, that's basically a miracle," said Marquis.

Kingsbury impressed

It was a performance that left six-time world champion Kingsbury at a loss.

"Oh my God, I think I was more nervous for him than I was for my run," said Kingsbury. "It's not easy to go down that course without an ACL."

Or any course, really.

While it's possible to walk with a torn ACL, moving laterally is nearly impossible. The ACL provides stability and support, two things vitally important for skiers whose knees are required to move side-to-side in unison as they navigate bump after bump designed to slow them down or send them tumbling poles over helmet.

And yet Marquis made his run on Friday look like just another day on the mountain. It wasn't. And he knows it.

"In my head I've got one more day, couple more runs and I'll go do surgery at the end of the month and turn the page on the Olympics and have great memories," he said. "That's something I'll look back on in a couple months, couple years and I'll be so satisfied, so blessed that I fought the whole way."

The proof is right there on his gloves.

With files from The Associated Press