Like a Great Golden Weight has been Lifted – -Bilodeau breaks Canada’s gold medal drought.

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It was really all any announcer talked about. It was always at the back of every athlete’s mind, no matter how focused they were. The first few days of the Olympics were marred with that one phrase. “No Canadian has ever won gold on home soil.” Previews for all medal hopefuls came with that disclaimer. From our Hockey team to our Curling team, from our sure-thing medalists to our long-shot chances, after listing the achievements of any competitor for this country, you’d always have that phrase underscoring every report.

No Canadian has ever won gold on home soil.

Montreal 1976 – summer games. Calgary 1988 – winter games. A total of  7 second place finishes, 9 bronze medals. Probably off by fractions of a second, fractions of an inch, or fractions of a score point. But as the saying goes; almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. Canada still never got to hear its own national anthem while on the podium at either of those games, the only country to do so after hosting twice.

We came close on the second day of the Olympics. Gold medalist in Torino four years prior, Jennefer Heil went down second-last for her moguls run. While nailing both jumps beautifully, Heil sped down the course with the fastest time thus far. Sitting in first place, Jennifer had to watch the final athlete, American Hannah Kearney, blaze down the course with an absolutely flawless run. Gold medal for USA, Heil beaten cleanly. And of course that night we again had to hear the announcers say that wonderful line.

No Canadian has ever won gold on home soil.

So then, nature would only be so kind as to put us in the exact same position the next day. Same course, same event, same predicament. Second last athlete, Canadian Alexandre Bilodeau, rocketed down the track. Watching the different camera angles it was no wonder athletes don’t last long in this sport; their knees bouncing right up to their chest many times a second. Any skier in that situation can attest to how much that hurt. It was mentioned that another member of the Canadian moguls team went through 8 knee surgeries in his career, and he was only 30. You really only get two Olympics to prove yourself, a third if you’re lucky. That kind of desperation translates well onto the runs. Another Canadian down, another near-flawless run. Bilodeau was sitting in first with one competitor to go.

Its funny, the first couple of runs you can’t tell the difference between the runs and their scores. You’re left to wonder what rank these people will get, outside of falls or fast times, you have little inclination to where the athletes will be placed, and the rational seems superfluous. After two days, you’re a professional. As the last rider from France came down, we were picking apart all of his flaws; when he landed the first jump his feet were too far out. He was leaning too far back in his middle mogul section. Checked his speed before the second jump. Sloppy landing. Faster time than Bilodeau, but not by much. Does that make up for his other errors?

The score came up. Colas from France ended up in sixth. Bilodeau came in first. The crowd went wild. The announcers were elated.

No Canadian has ever won gold on home soil. Until now.

And it’s funny the effect it has on the country. Talking with the employee at McDonalds at breakfast, they said they’d been offered upwards of 200 dollars for the Bilodeau advertisement. I went snowboarding that day, and people were lining up at the tightest mogul runs to see how fast they ski down it- I saw a lot of funny injuries that day. I pass by the McDonalds on the way back, and I see that the Bilodeau sign is no longer up.

And this won’t be Canada’s only gold, and it might not be the best story of these Olympics. But everyone remembers their first. And the first did not fail to disappoint. A clean win, a clean outclassing of opponents. No falls, no controversy. Just all heart.

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