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Canada is the Story at the 2010 Olympic Games
Alexandre Bilodeau captured a gold medal in the men’s moguls event at Cypress Mountain today, the first Canadian athlete to win Olympic gold on Canadian soil.
The 22-year-old Bilodeau wasn’t the favourite coming in, but on a sunny day in West Vancouver he brought home a first-place finish — and cemented his name in the Canadian sports hall of fame.
He came through with a marvelous performance under incredible pressure, firing up a 26.75 score on the second-last run of the evening in perfect weather. The last skier, Guilbaut Colas of France, had a chance to knock him out of first but couldn’t get it done.
“It’s too good to be true,” he told CTV as the crowd chanted “Bilodeau, Bilodeau, Bilodeau.” “There’s more to come. We have such a strong team.
“The party’s just starting for Canada.”
Bilodeau’s older brother, Frederic, who has cerebral palsy, was at the finish line and cheering wildly for his younger sibling, VANOC reported. Bilodeau was close to tears when he spoke to CTV about his brother and his family.
“A lot,” he said when asked how much of his historic medal belongs to Frederic. “It’s really getting me right now. My brother is my inspiration. Growing up with handicapped people puts everything back in perspective and he taught me so many things in life. My parents did, too.”
The crowd went berserk as the numbers were posted. Dale Begg-Smith, who was born in Vancouver but lives in Australia and skies for the Aussies, almost took the top prize but finished with a silver medal. Bryon Wilson of the U.S. was third, followed by Canadians Vincent Marquis and Pierre-Alexandre Rousseau.
It would’ve been a wicked turn of events if Begg-Smith, regarded as the top moguls skier in the world, had deprived Bilodeau of the glory. Begg-Smith rocketed down the course two skiers ahead of the Canadian and posted a terrific score of 26.58. It looked almost impossible to beat, but Bilodeau bested Begg-Smith by a decent margin.
Asked what he felt at the top of the hill, Bilodeau replied, “I said, I’m ready, the most ready I’ve ever been. It was just ... let it go. I went out and I knew what I had to do.”
Bilodeau will get his gold medal at a victory ceremony at B.C. Place on Monday night, an event that VANOC says has become the most sought after of these events.
Bilodeau has always had talent. But he felt he wasn’t fully utilizing his gifts and worked with a psychologist on the Canadian aerials team during the 2008-09 season and started using such techniques as biofeedback, a VANOC press release says. He was trying to relax his training performances and apparently he succeeded.
“I do not pay attention to the other skiers,” he once said. “But if I see or hear their result, I do not go crazy. I do not care for the others. If I make the descent which I am able to make, I will be able to win. That’s the confidence that I have.”
It was the second medal of the day for Canada. Kristina Groves of Ottawa won a bronze medal in the women’s 3000 meter speed skating race earlier in the day at the Richmond Oval, but it was still unclear if the Own the Podium program would have the ultimate impact.
On Saturday night, Jenn Heil of Spruce Grove, Alberta won a silver medal in the women’s moguls event. But it wasn't gold.
Canada came into the competition as the only country to have hosted an Olympics and never had one of its own win a gold medal. It happened in 1976 in Montreal and again in Calgary in 1988. As the event began, journalists were saying that "Canada is the story." But whether the Own the Podium program had worked wasn't clear until Bilodeau's achievement today.
As great as it is for Canada to have three medals, it’s still only half of the six that the United States has collected over the first three days of action at the Vancouver/Whistler Games, VANOC pointed out. Canadian Olympic officials have noted, however, that many of the country’s top events come later in the Games.