February 18, 2006
Gibson's grace in victory honours memory of dad
ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

CESANA PARIOL, Italy -- As part of the finish-area celebration that followed his gold-medal win yesterday, Duff Gibson hugged his wife, his teammates, his coaches and even some of the fans who cheered for him.

But it was an embrace with his sister, away from the lights and cameras that had just captured his winning run, that reduced the 39-year-old skeleton champ to tears.

Flying halfway around the world to watch her brother race for the very first time, Australian resident Susie Gibson explained why their quiet moment together had the Calgarian sobbing.

"Our father died a few months ago and it's just a shame he missed this," said Gibson of their father, Andy, who recently lost an

11-year battle with cancer.

"Duff and he had a really good relationship -- Duff was his crowning glory.

"Dad coached everything and sports was the centre of his life.

"It was always on the TV and it was an environment Duff thrived in."

When asked about his father, the words didn't come nearly as easily as the tears.

"I was asked a while ago if I might dedicate this to my dad," said Gibson, stopping frequently to collect himself.

"My dad was always an educator and coach. Although he put a great value and belief in sport, in the big picture, it is just sport.

"What I would dedicate to him is if I won the race today, I would try to be as gracious a winner as

I could be.

"And if I wasn't able to win, I'd be as gracious as I could be."

Living up to his words, he rained praise on second- and fourth-place finishers, fellow Calgarians Jeff Pain and Paul Boehm, for pushing him as teammates to heights he never thought possible until yesterday.

His class and poise were brilliant tributes to a father who shaped Gibson's life from a young age by introducing him to every sport imaginable.

Dreaming of playing in the NHL from a young age, Gibson moved on to be an Alberta speed-skating champ before a stint on

the national bobsled team eventually steered him towards skeleton -- a

discipline he used to mock.

His success in every sport was hardly surprising given his mother was a gym teacher who played high-level basketball, and his father was a judoka, who was to compete for Canada at the 1968 Olympics before the sport was taken off the program for the Mexico City Games.

A Calgary firefighter who is universally loved in the sporting community, Gibson has said for years he always knew he'd win an Olympic medal -- he just didn't know what sport in which he'd do it.

However, after winning the world skeleton championship in 2004 and a pair of World Cup races that same year, he had a pretty good idea he was finally on the right track.

"It started in 1976 when I was 10, watching the Montreal Olympics and I realized it was something I wanted to be a part of," said Gibson, whose uncle rowed for Canada at the 1984 Olympics.

"It's always had a special place in my heart and I realized I wanted to get there.

"In Salt Lake City, I did get there and finished 10th and realized that wasn't my dream at all.

"My dream was to be a contributor and be on the podium and today that happened."

Because of it, there wasn't a dry eye in the house."