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2010 Olympics put Whistler and Canada on the map

Event brought sport into the living room of every Canadian



It's been five years since the Olympic flags flew over Whistler, but the legacies of those Games live on, not just in the bricks and mortar of venues, but in the spirit of sport they left behind. For the next five weeks Pique will look back at the Games to celebrate its success.

Whistler and Vancouver's 2010 Winter Olympic Games was a breakout for Canada on the world stage.

This country's athletes set a new benchmark for gold medals won at the Winter Olympics with 14, surpassing the previous record of 13 won by the Soviet Union in 1976 and matched by Norway in 2002. To that point, Canada had hauled in 38 gold medals at the previous 20 editions of the Winter Olympics combined. It was the third Olympic Games in Canada, but after being held off the top of the podium in the 1976 Summer Games in Montreal and the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary, moguls skier Alex Bilodeau broke through to become the first Canadian to win gold on home soil.

Whistler resident Ashleigh McIvor DeMerit (then known as Ashleigh McIvor) made history by capturing the first ever gold in women's ski cross at Cypress Mountain. The medal remained in Canadian hands at the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia, as fellow Whistlerite Marielle Thompson won gold there.

Five years after the monumental moment, McIvor DeMerit described the race, the finish and even the closing ceremonies as "a blur," but vividly recalls the feeling of calmness she felt right before she was set to mount a challenge for gold.

"The most significant memory for me was standing in the start gate, about to race my final run for the medals," said McIvor DeMerit, who was voted Pique's favourite winter athlete in this winter's "Best of Whistler" feature. "I just felt like it was my day. That course was built for me. All the course workers volunteering on the side of it were cheering for me and everyone in the stands was hoping I would win. I just felt so calm and at ease."

McIvor DeMerit, 31, said winning gold at home is the result of "perfect timing," as she was at the "pinnacle of her career" at the time. Upon reflection, she was grateful for the opportunity to have ended up in position to make history.

"It's more of an honour than anything. I really do feel like the fact I was able to compete in that race and do so well — have the performance of a lifetime — was the result of a bunch of good decisions but also some very good timing," she said. "It's partially owed to my free-spirited mentality where I've always been very receptive to opportunities as they present themselves, but also very focused on what I love and making sure I love what I'm doing. That's what led me to that place in my life."

McIvor DeMerit, who was born in Vancouver and splits time between there and Whistler, described the unforgettable Olympic experience on home turf.

"The easiest way to describe it is it was magical," she said. "I felt like I was floating around the city. It was so special to see everyone come together and cheer for the same team, for our team.

"The craziness and the excitement was all positive. I can't imagine any host country experiencing this just as well as we did."

Canadian athletes scored four medals at Whistler Sliding Centre. Russell, Man.'s Jon Montgomery famously won gold in men's skeleton, and his celebration — chugging a beer in Whistler Village — earned him nearly as much fame. Montgomery went on to host The Amazing Race Canada.

Women's two-man bobsleigh athletes dominated the challenging track, as Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse won the gold medal while Helen Upperton and Shelley-Ann Brown followed up for the silver. Lastly, the four-man bobsleigh team of David Bissett, Lascelles Brown, Chris Le Bihan and Lyndon Rush slid to the bronze.

Canada also won gold in men's curling, men's and women's ice hockey, mixed ice dance (Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir), women's snowboard cross (Maëlle Ricker), men's snowboard parallel giant slalom (Jasey Jay Anderson), women's 1,000-metre speed skating (Christine Nesbitt), men's 500-metre speed skating (Charles Hamelin), men's team pursuit and men's 5,000-metre relay speed skating.


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