Canadian misses gold by a hair
VANCOUVER — Once Alexandre Bilodeau set the gold standard, silver wouldn’t shine as brightly.
Though first place was in his grasp, Mike Robertson had to settle for snowboard cross silver Monday after U.S. rival Seth Wescott — who also won gold in 2006 — sailed past him off a ramp near the bottom and edged him out at the finish.
“It was kind of bittersweet,” the 24-year-old from Canmore, Alta., admitted after the race. “Obviously I wanted to win, for sure, but I’m so happy to be second. It’s amazing.”
A backlash in Quebec, dismal results in the downhill and persistent ice woes at the Richmond Olympic Oval couldn’t dampen the thrill of Bilodeau, the 22-yearold moguls master from Rosemere, Que., who won Canada’s first-ever gold medal at home.
In his hometown, Mayor Helene Daneault was wearing one of hundreds of red scarves emblazoned with “Good luck, Alexandre” as she promised a massive party when he comes home next month.
Bilodeau, who collected his Olympic hardware at a ceremony Monday evening, was mobbed at a reception earlier in the day by a group of more than 250 supporters.
His 16-year-old sister Beatrice, also a freestyler, said she’s confident her brother will be able to handle the pressures of his new status as a national hero.
“We’re walking on the street seeing people recognizing us for the first time,” she said. Many Canadian fans are also gravitating toward her older brother Frederic, who has cerebral palsy, she added.
“They all want to take pictures with my brother Fred. My big brother supports us so much; now he can enjoy it.”
Jennifer Heil, who claimed Canada’s first medal of the Games on Saturday with a silver in the women’s moguls, said she couldn’t be happier for the skier she considers a little brother.
“We trained together the last six years every day,” Heil said. “I’m just so proud, the way he commanded his performance to win Canada’s first gold medal.”
Ice-resurfacing machines wreaked havoc on the speedskating events for a second straight day after a pile of snow and a puddle of water was deposited about 20 metres from the inner lane’s finish line.
It forced a delay of about 70 minutes in the middle of the men’s 500-metre long-track race, forcing medal contender Jeremy Wotherspoon to cool his heels for more than an hour before posting a respectable time in the first leg of the medal round.
There was disappointment in Whistler after a less-than-stellar Canadian showing in the longdelayed men’s downhill, where Erik Guay of Mont-Tremblant, Que., was the top Canadian in fifth place — Canada’s best Olympic downhill result since 1998.
Manuel Osborne-Paradis of Invermere, B.C., who was seen as the host nation’s top medal threat in the marquee event on the alpine skiing schedule, finished 17th, well back of gold medallist Didier Defago of Switzerland.
“It’s tough,” Osborne-Paradis said after the race.
Robbie Dixon of Whistler, B.C., who had a wild ride before crashing, said what many of his teammates were silently thinking.
“It felt like I let the country down,” he said in a shaking voice.
Defending overall World Cup champion Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway took silver and American Bode Miller won bronze. Calgary’s Jan Hudec was 25th.
A small funeral was also held Monday for the Georgian luger who died on the track in Whistler during training last week.