Bilodeau living rock-star life

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VANCOUVER — On Day 1 of the rest of Alexandre Bilodeau’s life, he is talking and talking, then talking some more.

There were the network television appearances in the early morning — four of them in all — starting just after 3 in the morning local, then the press conference at noon, the conference call telephone interview at two, the Canada House appearance at five, the medal ceremony at night, and then, finally, the private party a secret location that was to follow.

“I think I slept for three hours,” said Canada’s newest golden hero. “I felt like I slept 12.

“I don’t think I’ve realized yet that I’ve won. The last 12 hours have been the fastest of my life. This will live in my mind and memory forever.”

A day ago, maybe two, most Canadians wouldn’t know a thing about Bilodeau, who broke the national gold-medal drought. But by Monday, even he had a sense of humour about his newfound place on the Canadian sporting landscape.

“I’m probably going to be in Trivial Pursuit,” he said with a smile. “That’s an honour.”

An honour the magnitude of which he is just beginning to comprehend.

His phone hasn’t stopped ringing since the moguls victory at Cypress Mountain. Anyone and everyone wants a piece of him. According to the Canadian Olympic Committee press chief, there have 842 requests for personal interviews.

Since winning the medal Sunday evening, Bilodeau has, in no particular order, met or spoken with: Wayne Gretzky, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, former PM Jean Chretien, B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell, incoming Olympic president Marcel Aubut , and former Canadian Olympic medal winners Steve Podborski and Joey Juneau.

“I’ve haven’t had time to clear my messages and texts yet,” said Bilodeau. “There’s just so many.”

The Gretzky meeting came by chance. Bilodeau had a 3 a.m. wakeup call to get him to Grouse Mountain so he could do the NBC Olympic morning show. Just as he was getting off the tram, Gretzky was getting on. Apparently, it was a thrill for both The Great One and the new great one.

Many of the rest of the meetings have come by design. This is what life is like for a first-time, gold-medal winner from a country starving for gold in the new expanded media world.

For a day you are shuffled around and showed off. Maybe, starting today, Bilodeau’s time will be his own but in the more than 24 hours that followed his surprising victory, his time has belonged to Canada and the world.

His early wakeup call came after he had won his medal, gone through doping, did a post-event press conference at Cypress, travelled to the International Broadcast Centre an hour away to do the Canadian network, moved to the Main Press Centre for a late-night press conference and finally settled back into the Village by midnight. And then he had to move rooms, or rather choose to move rooms.

“I had the good room,” he explained. And after the winning the gold, he figured it was only fair to pass his room on the aerials athletes. “I want them to have the same chance I had.”

Being woken up in the middle of the night, Bilodeau travelled 40 minutes from the Athlete’s Village to Grouse Mountain for interviews with NBC, USA Today and Australian television, then back down the mountain and another 45 minutes to downtown Vancouver for Canada AM in both English and French and then eventually time to eat something before more stops of answering the same questions along press row.

And then came the medal ceremony last night at B.C. Place. As a teenager, he had gotten close to Jenn Heil’s gold medal from Turin but had “refused to touch it.” He didn’t want his hands on someone else’s prize. He wanted to feel his own.

Late Monday night, Bilodeau finally had a gold medal to call his own. He touched. Stared at it. “I’ve got goosebumps inside,” he said, the kind of goosebumps he provided for a nation no longer in waiting.

steve.simmons@sunmedia.ca


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