Some 48 hours after winning Canada’s first gold medal on home soil, Alexandre Bilodeau has become part of the national narrative, a reminder of the Olympic’s role as platform for myth-making. That was evident last night as the sweet, humble 23-year-old skier was celebrated at a swish reception thrown in the offices of Teck Corp, the outfit that mines the metal that goes into Olympic medals. The company had dibbs on tossing a party for the first Canadian athlete to bring home gold. And they did it up big at a gathering crammed with IOC and VANOC people and politicos Gary Lunn and Hedy Fry. Also present was Bilodeau’s entire family, who seem quite understandably overwhelmed by the sudden klieg-light glare—which has also served to shine a needed light on cerebral palsy after the skier named his older brother Frédéric, who is afflicted with the condition, his inspiration and hero.
After a series of speeches by Teck execs, the nation’s newest heartthrob was handed a maple leaf medal made from the same pool as the Olympic medals. He captivated the crowd with a short speech in which he recalled standing at the top of the mountain before his run: “I smile and say, ‘I’m so glad to be Canadian,’” he said, adding: “I didn’t say that to say that; the mountain was shaking.”
The crowd, busy capturing his image in their cell phones was enchanted with the young man from Rosemère, Que., relieved someone so level-headed, so modest, so apparently intelligent in his priorities, had nabbed the historic gold. “I’m glad it was him and not someone else,” one man told me. Another woman said: “He’s so nice, not arrogant at all. I really hope that lasts.”
Then it was over. On the way out waiters stood like sentries by the elevators, holding platters of gold-leaf dipped chocolate truffles. So by the time guests walked into the Vancouver night they too were dusted with traces of glittering gold.