Five best Canadian memories of the Games

Everyone across the country is entitled to have her/his own list of the best five, eight, 10 Canadian memories of the Games.

It's a daunting. A country winning 26 medals, including a record number of golds for a Winter Games host, means at least a dozen great stories are going to be left out. Simply put, there might be what seem like glaring omissions, but this is more of a personal list, gleaned from two weeks of watching the Olympics wall-to-wall.

1. Alexandre Bilodeau wins Canada's first gold. By the end of the Games, as we predicted it would be on the night he won, the sight of a Canadian on the top step of the podium was commonplace. Bilodeau's triumph, drawing on the strength of his brother, Frédéric, who has cerebral palsy, still raises tears two weeks later.

The Olympics are still on some level about people who seem ordinary doing something extraordinary. That was reflected in the quiet dignity of the Bilodeaus — Alex, Fred, parents Serge and Sylvie and younger sister Béatrice. You saw a glimpse of the family unit any Olympic athlete needs. Perhaps it makes what Joannie Rochette was able to do less surprising.

And no one had tangible proof that was going to happen when the 22-year-old Bilodeau took down expat Dale Begg-Smith late on Day 3, turning in a brilliant final run that has since been immortalized in a commercial.

2. Mighty Monty. Skeleton champion Jon Montgomery, a guy who decided he was going to be an Olympian first and picked the event second, became Canada's man of the Games. He went all-out to win, then celebrated the way you or I imagine we would celebrate winning an Olympic gold medal. The country was ready to party on that middle Friday of the Games, and Monty gave them a reason.

3. Clara Hughes' victory laps. The consummate Olympian went out gracefully, winning a bronze medal in women's 5,000-metre speedskating. At a wondrous, ageless 37, she skated a technically perfect race, skating a Richmond Oval-record 6:55.73 to briefly take over the lead in her last serious race. It seldom mattered that two much younger skaters surpassed her time.

Bob Howes, the centre on those great Edmonton Eskimos teams of the 1970s, once said, "Very seldom do you get to win your last game." Well, Clara Hughes won hers.

4. The unity of the bobsledders. The moment of triumph isn't always what sticks. It took one night, and one goofy moment, for the impact of Kaillie Humphries, Heather Moyse, Helen Upperton and Shelley-Ann Brown's 1-2 finish in two-woman bobsleigh to hit home.

The competition among a country's athletes to get an Olympic bobsleigh spot can be more cutthroat than law school. Serious grudges develop. The Canadian women rose above it. It was evident when an interviewer put them up to singing a few bars of the fluffy Black Eyed Peas song "I Gotta Feeling," which they did.

The way Brown, Humphries, Moyse and Upperton played along, singing, smiling ear-to-ear, lent itself to feeling like the Games had become part of something larger than ourselves, since that song has become an anthem of the moment. Anyone whose business and pleasure is writing and talking about sports hears "I Gotta Feeling" at all sorts of events. It's not a great song, but since Canadians are exposed to so much U.S. culture, it's only natural it would be a vessel for a greater message.

5. The giant flag. One would prefer to believe it was just a great, spontaneous moment for Corey Perry to procure a giant Maple Leaf for the hockey players to take around the ice, the way players do after winning the Stanley Cup. It was a perfect ender.