SOCHI, Russia – When Alexandre Bilodeau won his gold medal in moguls skiing this week, the first person he looked for was his brother Frederic.
The freestyle skier from Rosemere, Que., had done the same when he won gold in 2010. Frederic has cerebral palsy, but his beaming smile at his brother’s success was one of the touching moments of the Vancouver Games.
Bilodeau sought out his brother again on Monday after becoming the first Canadian to repeat as an Olympic gold medallist.
Once he spotted him, nothing else mattered. Alexandre hugged Frederic and even lifted him over the fence to celebrate the victory together.
But what was also noticeable was that 32-year-old Frederic now has trouble standing up; that since Vancouver, his condition has deteriorated.
It has forced the Bilodeau family to move out of their house into a condo in Montreal, where all the rooms are on the same level.
“Some friends of our family had a handicapped child and one day, after coming home from grocery shopping, the boy had fallen down the stairs and had died,” said Bilodeau, 26. “My parents realized they had to do something.
“He’s aware of it. Since they got to Russia, he knows it’s more complicated with the wheelchair and he feels like he’s being a burden on us. We keep trying to convince him that’s not the case, but it’s not easy to do.”
Then Bilodeau broke into tears and said “Sorry, but it hurts.”
When told he brought a lot of happiness to his brother, Bilodeau said: “As much as I can, anyway.”
The skier said his brother lives his dreams by “proxy,” either through Bilodeau or their 20-year-old sister Beatrice, who will soon begin studying for a degree in law.
“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.”