At the bottom of the ski hill, sitting on the couch, Alexandre Bilodeau’s hands are clenched to his face as he looks up anxiously at the big screen. The last skier is making his final run down Cypress Mountain, and Bilodeau is just waiting and waiting. Finally, France native Guilbaut Colas’ run is over, and fate is left in the judge’s hands.
Sixth place, reads the jumbotron. That’s where Colas would finish in the standings, with a score of 25.74 points.
Jolting up from the couch in celebration, a victory party for Bilodeau was underway at the foot of the mountain, while history was being made.
“I knew [Colas] didn’t have the run to win. But I couldn’t believe it still, until I looked at the board and [he finished] number six, and I’m like ‘I’m first, I won the Olympic Games.’ I couldn’t believe it,” recalled Alexandre Bilodeau. “Everybody trains [for] four years, or all their lives, for that day, and I’m the only one [who] really worked out that day.”
The 26-year-old Rosèmere, Quebec native won Canada’s first of 14 gold medals at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games that day, and became the first Canadian athlete to win gold at any Canadian Olympic Games held on home soil.
“To be in the Olympics is an amazing experience, but having that chance to compete on home soil is something that not many people [get to do],” said Bilodeau. “I was fortunate to have one of the best performances of my life at the right moment. There’s no word to explain that… it’s amazing. It will stay with me all my life.”
The freestyle skier, who will be competing in his third and final Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, this coming February, said there isn’t anything that can top that gold medal win in Vancouver.
“Whatever the result will be in Sochi, even if I win, it’s not going to be the same,” said Bilodeau. “The experience in Vancouver was out of this world.”
Bilodeau attributes a lot of that gold medal win to his brother, Frédéric, who suffers from cerebral palsy.
“He’s my everyday inspiration. He has dreams in life, and most of his dreams are not realistic. He doesn’t have the ability to make it happen,” he said. “I need to go after my dreams. I don’t need to realize them, but I at least need to try [because] he lives his dream through me,[and] through my sister.
“To have him on the front stage with me in Vancouver, it was amazing to see his joy, to see how proud he was. It’s crazy how my mom drove me when I was a kid, to all these mountains, to all these competitions, and he was always in the car, waiting for me. He has done as much work as my mom to get me where I am now. He was a big part of that medal.”
As a kid, Bilodeau both skied and played hockey, but at the age of eight, hockey was out of the picture and everything was about skiing.
After watching Jean-Luc Brassard, another Quebec freestyle skier win a gold medal at the 1994 Olympics, Bilodeau was hooked on freestyle skiing.
He eventually chose to focus on moguls which is a branch of freestyle skiing.
In 2006, Bilodeau became the youngest man to win a World Cup event in Federation Internationale de Ski (FIS) history at Mont Gabriel in St. Sauveur, QC. He won five gold medals during the 2008-2009 World Cup season and has now won three gold medals in a row, heading into the Sochi Winter Olympic Games in February.
Despite all of his success in skiing, Bilodeau said that hockey is his “favourite sport for all time,” and like many Montrealers, he cheers for the Habs.
Bilodeau is also a student at Concordia, studying accounting at the John Molson School of Business (JMSB).
He said he chose Concordia because Judith Woodsworth, a former President of Concordia, was the first to convince him that JMSB was the best fit. Although Bilodeau is Francophone, he decided to study school in English because he felt that being fluent in English was important for the business world.
“[JMSB] is an amazing school, great people there, great teachers that helped through these four years,” he said. “It hasn’t been an easy four years for me, always travelling, not there for the mid-term, not there for the final. This December, I wasn’t there for the whole period of the finals and I went to write an exam [in my teacher’s office] close to Christmas.”
Bilodeau added that with his hectic travel schedule during his competitive season, which falls from December until the end of March, he often doesn’t get to travel around and see many of the countries he visits. He will be leaving for Sochi on Feb. 1 after another competition in Norway. So, who will he be cheering for when he gets there?
“Team Canada,” he said with a laugh, adding that he’ll be attending some of their hockey games when he can. He’ll also be cheering for good friend and fellow skier, Erik Guay.
“I wish him the best, he deserves it,” Bilodeau said. “It’s amazing to live the Olympics with people you grew up with.”