Alexandre Bilodeau’s coming out party

The nation's newest heartthrob gives captivating speech, is toasted in style

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.

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