Sometimes I like to read through my archives.
I don’t do this (just) because of my raging ego.
I like to be reminded of what I was thinking about when I wrote each post. I like to be reminded of who I was thinking about when I wrote some posts.
I’ve written some (veiled) posts about truly horrible events.
I’ve written some posts about amazing things. And people.
This post falls in the second category.
Yesterday evening I was crashed out on my bed. I was working on a fiction-y blog post in my head. I was exchanging pro-Canadian emails with a Canadian blog friend, and I was, of course, watching the Olympics.
You won’t find a bigger sports junkie than me. You just won’t. While waiting for Vancouver to wake up yesterday morning, I watched Brazilian soccer to fill the sports void. I’m addicted.
But my favourite thing about the Olympics isn’t the sports. It’s the little stories. I love hearing about all the amazing things the athletes do when not competing. I love knowing about all the things they’ve had to overcome to follow their dreams.
So last night, I was answering an e-mail with my TV on one of the million Canadian channels covering the games. The host dude said, “And now the story of two brothers on very different life paths, but bound together…” (or something like that.)
I looked up from my laptop.
When the host mentioned the athlete’s older brother having CP, I pushed my laptop aside. What played out on my TV screen for the next 3 or 4 minutes was one of the most touching stories I had ever seen.
If you know me, or have been reading here a while, you’ll know why this story knocked me on my ass.
They showed a guy who was a promising young hockey player quit the sport to take up skiing, because it would be easier for his older brother to watch and be part of it.
They showed a young man who wasn’t expected to be able to walk past the age of ten, walking arm and arm with his younger brother.
They showed an older brother who, at the Turin games, consoled his brother after “only” winning a silver. An older brother who told his younger, world-class athlete, sibling how proud he was of him.
When the piece ended, I just stared at the TV. I tried to organize my thoughts. All I came up with was…
“He has to win gold in the moguls.”
Hours later, I was flipping through channels and ended up on pairs figure skating. Between the time difference and my attention span, I kind of lost track of time.
I went to the kitchen for a drink. When I got back to my room, they had cut to the men’s moguls.
The announcer said, “You know the set-up… No Canadian athlete has ever won gold on Canadian soil…”
Those words alone gave me goosebumps.
They said, “Alexandre Bilodeau…” and I stopped blinking.
I watched his run.
Then they announced what I already knew…
“Gold medal for Canada.”
As eloquent as ever, I mumbled, “Holy fuck…”
Then they showed his brother celebrating.
The announcer said, “His brother stood the entire time…”
It made me need to sit down.
It didn’t take me long to realize that this was, easily, my favourite Olympic moment ever.
I didn’t need to see all the interviews I’ve watched since, with Alexandre Bilodeau and his remarkable family.
I didn’t need to see sports commentators completely moved.
I didn’t need to see Canadians celebrating in the streets.
I just knew.
If this was any other Canadian athlete, it would still be a huge victory.
An amazing performance.
A vanquished villain who was expected to win. (Born and raised in Canada. Turned his back on it at 15 and doesn’t hide his anti-Canadian feelings.)
But this story isn’t about any such negativity.
This is the story of a 22 year old who knows he didn’t make it to the podium on his own.
He cried talking about how much of an inspiration his brother has been.
He thanked every committee involved with putting the Olympics on, and in funding Canadian athletes.
As my friend pointed out, he thanked the volunteers.
He thanked his amazingly strong family.
He talked about how much his victory would mean to the other Canadian athletes still to compete.
It takes a lot to make me even prouder to be Canadian.
There are two faces I want to remember.
I want this post to remind me of Alexandre Bilodeau’s smile just before he started the race of his life. There was no smugness to it. He was enjoying the moment. He was keenly aware that he had the opportunity to compete. He was proud. He was honoured.
I want to remember that look.
But the giant smile on his proud older brother’s face when Alexandre Bilodeau won…
I’ll never, ever forget that.