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Canadian moguls specialist Pierre-Alexandre Rousseau is packing away his skis and taking to the skies.
The former world champion from Drummondville, Que., is retiring from freestyle skiing to pursue a career in skydiving, swapping one adrenalin sport for another after realizing he no longer could give moguls 100 per cent of his effort.
The 32-year-old Rousseau was standing at the top of the hill in Deer Valley, Utah, at a World Cup in February when he said he knew it was time to call it a moguls career.
"It was like 'Wow.' It just hit me, I cannot do this anymore," Rousseau said Tuesday in a phone interview. "To go hard on the mogul course you need to be 100 per cent into it. It's the willingness to give everything you have to perform. You cannot do moguls when you're halfway there, it's too dangerous."
Rousseau has claimed 23 podium finishes in 147 World Cup starts in his 15-year career with Canada's freestyle team, and was fifth at the Vancouver Olympics.
He broke his back a month before the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics, then didn't qualify for the 2006 Games in Turin, Italy. He rebounded to win the 2007 world championships — a moment when everyone thought he was finished, he said. He went on to compete at the Olympics in Vancouver with one of the best runs of his career.
"It's a very fulfilling experience for a human being to do all these things, but I think the reason why I was successful was because I gave 100 per cent of myself to it at every single moment of my career," Rousseau said.
"As [1994 Olympic champion] Jean-Luc Brassard was telling me, you're going to know when it's time to pull the plug. You need so much to do moguls skiing and when you don't have what it takes, you just know."
Choosing skydiving as his next career was equally obvious, he said. Rousseau has been skydiving since taking a course at 18 -- the age at which he no longer needed his parents' permission, he said laughing.
He made his first jump in 1998 and was hooked.
"I really knew that this is something I will do for the rest of my life and the passion for it just grows bigger and bigger," Rousseau said. "You need to go with what's in you and makes you successful and happy. I'm so blessed that I found that."
Rousseau works for a skydiving company, filming video of clients' first jumps. He hopes to teach skydiving, and at some point to get his pilots license and perhaps his own company.
Even in skydiving, he draws inspiration from skiing, and recalled the impact Brassard's gold-medal run at the Lillehammer Olympics had on him.
"The emotion that went through me watching him, I just said 'Wow, I need to reproduce this feeling for the people to enjoy.' It was so strong. I realized why I'm doing this, because I wanted to give that to other people, to make people have these very intense emotions and feelings, and this is something you do in skydiving every day."
Rousseau also does BASE jumping — which is leaping from a fixed object such as the CN Tower.
He has another top-secret stunt in the planning stages, that he plans to unveil within the next year.
"It's very ambitious and it will glue sky diving, BASE jump and skiing all together in one major stunt," Rousseau said. "Something that no-one has ever done. It's something that's really obsessing me at the highest point right now."
On the slopes, Peter Judge, the CEO of the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association and Rousseau's coach at one time, said the former freestyle star will be remembered for his quality of skiing.
"When he was on, he was on," Judge said. "What has defined him is his remarkable feel and touch for the snow which has made him an unbelievable skier. He moves the ski on all dimensions to the extent that he actually becomes part of the terrain.
"To make something so difficult look so easy at such an incredibly high speed, that's talent."