Bilodeau’s gold medal brings back memories

Abbotsford's Randy Bartsch was a competitor on the international freestyle circuit during the late 1970's and early '80s. These days

Moguls skier Alexandre Bilodeau’s historic gold-medal performance on Sunday – marking the first time a Canadian athlete had won an Olympic title on home soil – figures to be a huge boon to the sport of freestyle skiing in Canada.

That’s according to Randy Bartsch, an Abbotsford native who serves on the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association’s board of directors.

“The great thing is that there’s only one first,” Bartsch, who was in attendance at Cypress Mountain on Sunday to watch Bilodeau’s historic victory. “For freestyle to be forever remembered as the sport that brought home the gold to Canada is great, not only for the country, but for the development of the sport going forward. Freestyle’s had a very strong program, and it’s going to get stronger.”

Bartsch, 51, was a competitor on the international freestyle circuit in the late 1970s and early ’80s, right around the time that the sport began to move into the mainstream. He and his contemporaries helped to plant the seeds that eventually yielded Bilodeau’s gold medal.

Freestyle skiing was originally a professional sport, structured along the lines of golf’s PGA Tour, and Bartsch turned pro in 1977 at the age of 18. But in 1981, when Calgary was awarded 1988 Olympics, the Canadian Olympic Committee wanted to add freestyle, along with curling and short track speed skating, to the Games roster as demonstration sports.

That meant that freestyle skiers would have to renounce their professional status. Bartsch was among the athletes who voted to bring the sport under the amateur umbrella in order to earn the five-ring stamp of approval.

“There was certainly a lot of lobbying by different countries on both sides (of the argument),” recalled Bartsch, who retired from the competitive scene in 1982. “Back then, it would have been hard to imagine a February day in 2010 when we’d be in the stands watching a Canadian athlete finish first and bring home the gold for Canada.”

For Bartsch, watching Bilodeau’s gold medal performance in person was a special experience.

“The energy in the crowd was beyond description,” he said. “There was a lot of drama and excitement.”

Just Posted

One woman dead after motorcycle crash in Mission

RCMP are investigating a crash on Highway 11 that claimed one life

Friends, family celebrate life of ‘angel from heaven’

Fraser Valley-based percussionist, therapist and volunteer hailed as man with boundless energy, love

Ex-Nanaimo man convicted of 1999 sex assault at Abbotsford music festival

James Allen Redden, 50, found guilty of three charges

Fraser Valley Blues Society hosts International Blues Challenge

Abbotsford group holds event on Sunday, June 22 in Aldergrove

One in custody after dramatic Abbotsford vehicle theft ends with rollover in Chilliwack

Prolific offender Michael Joseph Hasell facing numerous charges

Stolen sunshade puts damper on Lower Mainland woman’s pet-relief effort

Broken umbrella taken from White Rock lawn ‘within 10 minutes’

Owner of B.C. fruit stand recounts ‘flames popping up everywhere’ from wildfire

The Mount Eneas wildfire is burning at about 200 hectares south of Peachland

VIDEO: Lower Mainland city introduces ‘a new way to play’

Upgraded playgrounds and public playboxes unveiled in Langley City

Ontario, Saskatchewan premiers join together to oppose federal carbon plan

Saskatchewan is already involved in a court case over the tax

For-profit ridesharing legislation long overdue: BC Conservatives

Interim party leader Scott Anderson said the provincial government should step out of the way

5 to start your day

A woman is dead in a Mission crash, friends celebrate life of South Surrey train victim and more

After cave rescue, soccer boys pray for protection at Thai temple

On Wednesday evening, the boys and coach were released from hospital

Gymnastics sex abuse victims join hands, accept courage award at ESPYs

The women who spoke out against the abuse by Larry Nassar stood together Wednesday night

Most Read