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.

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