(by Philip O’Connor, Reuters) Rosa Khutor, Russia – When Canadian Alex Bilodeau won the gold medal in moguls on Monday night, the first person he wanted to celebrate with was his brother Frederic, who has cerebral palsy. Alex has spoken countless times about how he is so close with Frederic, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at a young age and told he would not be able to walk beyond the age of 12, yet more than 15 years later he is still able to do so.
When 26-year-old Alex made the final stop at the end of the mountain on Monday night, he immediately ran over to his brother and pulled him over the barrier so that they could celebrate together. The Canadian embraced Frederic in celebration after becoming the first freestyle skier to win two Olympic golds.
“When I’m on my skis my colleagues are my inspiration, they are pushing me every day to be a better skier, to go faster, to go bigger. But a four-year process is very long, and when I wake up in the morning it’s my brother,” he told reporters.
A three-time world champion in dual moguls, Bilodeau sees his brother’s everyday struggle and is in awe of his ability to get the best out of life, despite his difficulties.
“The motivation that he has, if he had had the chances like I did, he would have been four times Olympic champion. He’s a great inspiration, a great person and he’s going to be an inspiration for me after my career also,” the 26-year-old said. [Bilodeau said he plans to retire after this Olympics and finish his studies in accounting finance.]
“Every little thing in life is hard for him, whether it’s going from his seat to go and see me here, walking in the snow, it takes so much energy, it’s very hard.
“I always complain, and he has every reason in the world to complain and he never does. And why is that? He enjoys life, he takes the best out of it. [Whatever I do in my life, my brother is my real inspiration.]”
As Bilodeau performed “a perfect run” to secure Canada’s second moguls gold of the Sochi Games after Justine Dufour-Lapointe won the women’s competition, he said he felt a duty to his brother to make the most of his abilities.
“He has dreams like you and I, he can’t go after those dreams. [He never complains that it is not realistic to him,]” he said. “I have the abilities, I can at least try to go after my dreams, and out of respect for him I go after them.”
Bilodeau confirmed that he intended to retire at the end of the season and allow “that kid” – fellow Canadian and Olympic silver medalist 21-year-old Mikael Kingsbury – to take over his mantle.
The Canadian described the four-year struggle since winning gold in Vancouver that led to the successful defense of his Olympic title.
“Every day for the last four years I’ve had a kid [Kingsbury] right in front of me or right beside me all the time,” he added.
“We were three or four Canadians in the final and I need to thank them, because without them I would never have laid down the best run of my career today.”
Even then, Frederic was never far from his thoughts.
“There’s up and downs, but at least I try, and that’s what my brother taught me.”
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1. What did Canadian Alex Bilodeau become the first person to do in Monday’s Olympic games?
2. How does Bilodeau regard his fellow Canadian competitors?
3. What does Alex feel a duty to do for his brother Frederic?
4. What does Alex say about his brother? List his quotes.
5. Watch the videos under “Resources” below the questions. What inspires you most about the Bilodeau brothers / family?
More about Frederic:
When told he brought a lot of happiness to his brother, Bilodeau said: “As much as I can, anyway.”
“I learn a lot from him and he inspires me,” said Bilodeau. “It helps me keep things in perspective.
“He is aware that his handicap is mostly physical. He accepts that. Myself, I get upset over small things. It’s pathetic. So it brings me down to earth.
“I was lucky enough to be able to put everything in place so I could reach my goals, but he doesn’t even have that. He can’t even hope to do some things, so he does them through me.”
He said Frederic was his source of inspiration over the last four years.
“I have a family, a great girlfriend, a team of trainers, but the person who motivates me to go through the highs and lows is my brother,” said Bilodeau, who plans to retire from skiing to pursue a career in accounting. “Now he wants to see the Alex who is not the skier.
“He will encourage me in anything I do. He’s the same with my sister. He won’t let up. That’s my brother – the happy camper who motivates us every day.”
Watch two videos about the Bilodeau brothers: (NOTE: Frederic is speaking French – the Bilodeaus are from French-speaking Quebec.)
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