Brenden Kelly knew he had the skills to take home some hardware from the Freestyle Canada National Championships.
But the 22-year-old Pemberton product was admittedly surprised by the discipline in which he won his first gold.
Kelly, the 2016 bronze medallist in moguls, topped all competitors in the dual moguls event in Jasper, Alta. on March 25. The biggest factor, Kelly explained, was that everything he worked on all year came together—most notably, his focus on landing his toughest tricks at the top at each and every event.
"It was so cool for me," Kelly said. "Dual moguls isn't always my strength because I'm not one of the faster guys on our team. But I just had it all locked in and figured out on that day.
"I was doing my most difficult trick on the top, which is the cork 1080. Not everyone was doing their hardest tricks—a lot of people dumb it down for dual—so continuing to push myself with my speed and my tricks helped me get to where I got to."
Kelly said there are significantly different strategies to the two moguls disciplines, as dual has the added stress of head-to-head elimination battles, as opposed to being the only competitor on course.
"You definitely approach duals a little bit differently. In singles, you make your aesthetic perfect, do everything as clean as possible. You want to do your big tricks but make practical decisions about what round to do those tricks," he said. "In duals, you go for it every single time. Your hardest tricks, if you've got them, you do them as fast as you can.
"You can't ever give the other person the opportunities. You have to go 110 per cent every single run."
Kelly didn't exactly flounder in the March 24 moguls event before his dual win, as he placed fourth in a field that included legend and all-time World Cup wins leader Mikael Kingsbury.
The first competition allowed Kelly to adjust to the flatter course and make the most of it in duals action.
"It levels the playing field a little bit because you can only go so fast when it's not very steep," he said. "I was looking at my times from the single moguls and I was one of the faster guys. I decided it was the last event, so I'm not going to be conservative at all. I'm going to go for every single one of my runs, and it paid off."
The season was generally positive for Kelly, as he got into six World Cup events this year, his most since 2015-16. He also posted a career-best 11th at the Calgary competition, which, combined with his nationals performance, should help set the table for a strong start to 2018-19.
"It was the breakout season I'd been looking for for the past couple of years," he said. "I needed to show my coaching staff and myself that this is what I want to do for the next four years coming into the next Olympics.
"It's clear to me that staying the course is the right option."
Kelly acknowledged he'd have continued to battle for an Olympic berth for the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing, but the strong finish to this season helps him justify that choice.
"I had the plan to go the four years again anyway, but because of the results, it made me certain that it's what I want to do," he said. "The last four years have been good, but the calibre of athletes on this team has been so, so high that it's been a real grind to get to where I am now. To stand on the podium with these guys is the coolest thing ever."