The Right Fit
Two-Time Olympic Gold Medalist and Concordia Student Alexandre Bilodeau Named Ambassador of Special Olympics Québec
Concordia student and two-time Olympic gold medalist Alexandre Bilodeau understands the struggle of growing up with physical or intellectual disabilities. The former freestyle skier has a younger brother, Frédéric, who was diagnosed at a young age with cerebral palsy, an illness that causes permanent movement problems.
“My brother has always been an exceptional person to my eyes,” said Bilodeau. “He taught me many things over the years.”
Bilodeau sees his brother as an inspiration, especially during his own Olympic career, which makes the 27-year old a perfect choice to become ambassador of Special Olympics Québec.
“The link between him and the Special Olympics is easy to make,” said Bilodeau. “These kids have the same right to practice sports as any other person—the only problem is that they often lack resources, and that’s when SOQ comes into play.”
Bilodeau, who is also president of the 2016 Québec Games, was introduced as ambassador to the media by Special Olympics Québec, a not-for-profit organization that supports nearly 5000 athletes in a ceremony last Thursday at the John Molson Room.
“I was able to have the opportunity to become an Olympic champion,” said Bilodeau. “Not everybody has that chance. I want to be able to give the slightest chance to these athletes to persevere and make their dreams happen.”
The SOQ also took the time to recognize former Olympian and speed skating champion Nathalie Lambert, SPVM Director Marc Parent and former Montreal Canadiens president Pierre Boivin with individual awards during the evening.
SOQ chair Daniel Granger was happy to add Bilodeau to a staff of over 1,500 volunteers. He even admitted that he’d been longing for a partnership between Bilodeau and the SOQ, feeling he can contribute to a group that lacks visibility and funding.
“He knows the issue [of being intellectually disabled] and its realities,” said Granger. “He knows the potential of our athletes [that are intellectually disabled] and believes in sport and its benefits.
“Alex will be a great asset. We hope that he’ll inspire the young ones to do more sports and be persevering.”
Over the past 18 years, retired diver and Olympic medalist Annie Pelletier was one of the only public figures to openly support the SOQ, and she is glad to know that she can now count on the help of Bilodeau.
“We hope that with his great notoriety across Canada and his credibility and sensitivity, he will take our visibility to another level,” said Pelletier.
“Even for Olympic athletes, it’s difficult to get some recognition,” she continued. “So imagine how difficult it is for the special athletes.”
Valérie Gagnon-Paradis, a swimmer who won five medals during the 2014 Special Olympics Summer Games in Vancouver, was excited at the prospect of Bilodeau becoming a face of the organization.
“Alex is such a dynamic guy; it’s just nice to be around him,” said Gagnon-Paradis who will represent Canada next July during the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles, California. “He brings a lot of courage and determination,” she said.
“I hope that he’ll be our ambassador for as many years as possible.”
Former Montreal Alouette quarterback Anthony Calvillo was also in attendance for the ceremony, and he too approved of Bilodeau being named ambassador.
“You just think of [Bilodeau’s] story, you think about himself, his brother and what kind of impact sports does to an individual, and to me, it’s just the right fit,” said Calvillo, who was inducted into the SOQ Partners Hall of Fame last year.
“The more [attention] you can get the better it’s going to be for the athletes, because more people are going to get involved, whether it’s volunteering or [contributing] financially to help them live their dreams.”
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