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Canada's Bilodeau wins first of many

Fourth-Place Medal

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Canada is so happy about Alexandre Bilodeau winning the country's first gold medal on home soil that Monday has been declared a holiday in some parts of the country.

It's perfectly understandable to go crazy – there's an immediate sensation of the beer tasting a little sweeter as it slides down one's gullet. Bilodeau bested Canadian-Australian Dale Begg-Smith, a convenient bad guy for those who need a villain. He backed up some big talk about winning the most medals, although it is more than a footnote that the U.S. won six medals this weekend to Canada's three.

Coming on a beautiful Sunday after days of rain, this was a respite from what would have been a crummy first weekend for the host country. Whether the country needed this was debatable, but VANOC certainly did.

Bilodeau, the second-to-last skier in the final at Cypress Mountain, had his work cut out for him. One live blog noted that Begg-Smith was going to be "very hard to dislodge." Some competitors would have been plagued by self-doubt. Bilodeau wasn't, making good on the AP's projection. In the aftermath, the AP apparently forgot, calling it an "unlikely upset." A Canadian winning gold at home will do that.

There also is some symbolism. This is the fifth Olympics to include moguls as a medal event. That's generally the point where a country should see proof of good long-term development. So it is appropriate that 16 years after Jean-Luc Brassard won in Lillehammer in 1994, a millennial from La Belle Province carved out a piece of Canadian sports history. It might presage what Marcel Aubut, the maverick former Quebec Nordiques president, promises will become a regularity once he assumes the presidency of the Canadian Olympic Committee on April 1.

There was some hyperbole comparing this to Paul Henderson's goal in the 1972 Summit Series, but that was not even relevant. The point is to make the sight of a Canadian on the top of a podium so commonplace that someday, only degenerate Trivial Pursuit addicts recall Bilodeau's feat.

Now, how long until the second gold? In Turin those were long days between Jennifer Heil winning in women's moguls on Day 2 and Duff Gibson winning men's skeleton on Day 8. Can athletes in one sport get momentum from compatriots' victory elsewhere? If people wish to believe that, now they can.

Believe. Bilodeau put that word back in play.

(Monday is Family Day in Ontario, although it's not clear who gets it off, except government workers. That's the joke.)

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