Alexandre Bilodeau

McKayla Maroney, Tonga flagbearer among viral Olympic stars of 2010s decade

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NBCSports.com looks back at the 2010s this week. Here are 10 viral Olympic moments that defined the decade …

Vancouver 2010: Alexandre Bilodeau wins Canada’s first home gold, hugs brother
Canada went gold-less at both the 1976 Montreal Games and the 1988 Calgary Winter Games. A lot of thought was put into which athlete would earn its first title in Vancouver. It ended up being Bilodeau, who upset the defending champion and embraced his older brother, Frederic, who has cerebral palsy.

Vancouver 2010: Jon Montgomery’s celebratory drink after skeleton title
The Canadian came from behind to stun Latvian Martins Dukurs for gold. The scruffy car salesman/auctioneer then drank from a beer pitcher on a victory march through the Whistler ski village in one of the iconic moments of the Games.

London 2012: Queen/James Bond Opening Ceremony
Who could forget the Queen’s royal entrance into the London Olympic Stadium, “parachuting” in from above with the help of 007. Danny Boyle, the Oscar winner who directed the Opening Ceremony, originally thought an actress — perhaps Helen Mirren — would play the Queen in the skit, if approved by the royal family. “They came back and said, ‘We’re delighted for you to do it, and Her Majesty would like to be in it herself,’” Boyle said in 2013.

London 2012: McKayla Maroney not impressed
Stunned and upset that she was beaten for the Olympic vault title, Maroney became one of social media’s first major memes for her smirk on the podium. “I remember doing the face for literally two seconds,” Maroney said later. “Like, if you watch the video, it’s two seconds. And I remember thinking, did I just make a face? Because it’s natural. I do it all the time. I have pictures of me when I’m little doing it. I have it on my Mac computer when I’m like 13.”

Sochi 2014: Four-ring Opening Ceremony
By the third Olympics of the decade, everybody knew about hashtags. Among the more memorable #SochiProblems was an Opening Ceremony glitch where five snowflakes were supposed to open into five interlocking Olympic Rings. Only four did, leaving one snowflake that ended up looking like an asterisk. Organizers later made light of the mishap in the Closing Ceremony.

Sochi 2014: Johnny Quinn busts through bathroom
The U.S. bobsledder tweeted at 4:16 a.m. ET, “I was taking a shower and the door got locked/jammed…. …With no phone to call for help, I used my bobsled push training to break out. #SochiJailBreak.” And so Johnny Quinn became a social media sensation. He capitalized, training with a SWAT team (after the Games) and becoming a public speaker. Quinn, a former NFL preseason wide receiver, told his story in front of Fidelity Investments, school assemblies and LiftMaster, a suburban Chicago company whose products include garage-door accessories.

Rio 2016: Michael Phelps’ face
The swimming ready room in Rio became such a hit that a constant live stream was added to NBCOlympics.com’s wall-to-wall coverage. Phelps authored the best moment, stewing with a disgusted look as rival Chad le Clos shadow boxed in front of him. “I always know there’s two cameras in the upper right-hand corner right before I walk out, and I’m like sitting there, like spitting water,” Phelps said later. “As I’m making a face, I was like, yep, that’s on camera. … Someone will pick that one up tomorrow.”

Rio 2016: Usain Bolt’s mid-race smiles for cameras
In his last Olympics, the world’s fastest man created the most buzz while caught in still images in semifinals. Photos of Bolt — smiling while looking back at his 100m semifinal competitors mid-race — and exchanging glances with Andre De Grasse in the 200m semis — lit up social media. Tack them on to Bolt’s other viral moments, from crossing the finish line at the 2013 World Championships as lightning struck to getting run over by a Segway at the 2015 Worlds.

PyeongChang 2018: Tonga flag bearer Pita Taufatofua
Taufatofua actually debuted his shirtless, oiled-up Opening Ceremony appearance in Rio as a taekwondo athlete. But his journey to becoming a dual Summer/Winter Olympian is the stuff of legend. He traversed the globe picking up Olympic cross-country skiing qualifying points in Finland, Australia, Colombia and finally Iceland, clinching a spot thanks to the sport’s very lenient structure for athletes from nations without a Winter Olympic tradition. In PyeongChang, he braved near-freezing temperatures to again go shirtless at the Opening Ceremony. He then finished outside the top 100 in his ski race.

PyeongChang 2018: Here Comes Diggins!
The U.S.’ first Olympic cross-country skiing title changed the lives of not only Jessie Diggins and Kikkan Randall, but also NBC Olympics analyst Chad Salmela. The exuberant call from Salmela, who knew fellow Minnesota native Diggins since she was in high school, became the name of a new flavor at Selma’s Ice Cream Parlour in Diggins’ hometown of Afton.

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BEST OF 2010s: Summer Olympians | Winter Olympians | Teams
MOMENTS: Summer Olympics | Winter Olympics | Paralympics | Viral

Canada’s Alexandre Bilodeau makes retirement official

Alexandre Bilodeau
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Alexandre Bilodeau, the first freestyle skier to win multiple Olympic gold medals, will ski competitively for the last time on Friday.

The Canadian Freesyle Ski Association confirmed Bilodeau’s statements from during and before the Sochi Olympics that he will retire after this World Cup season, which ends in La Plagne, France, on Friday, according to the Canadian Press.

Bilodeau, 26, has said it’s been his plan since 2010 to retire after the 2013-14 season.

He exits as one of Canada’s greatest Olympians. He won the nation’s first gold at a Canada-hosted Olympics at Vancouver 2010, after Canadians were shut out of golds at Montreal 1976 and Calgary 1988.

Bilodeau successfully defended his title in Sochi, relegating countryman and two-time reigning World Cup champion Mikael Kingsbury to silver last month. Bilodeau is 31 World Cup points behind Kingsbury for this year’s title going into the final event.

Bilodeau has said he wants to focus on his accounting career once finished with skiing.

Other great Canadian Olympians include four-time gold medalist hockey players Hayley WickenheiserJayna Hefford and Caroline Ouellette, speed skaters Cindy Klassen and Clara Hughes (six medals each, though two of Hughes’ were in cycling) and short track speed skaters Marc Gagnon (five medals) and Charles Hamelin (four medals).

Perhaps the most notable Canadian Summer Olympian is Donovan Bailey, who won double gold in 1996 in the 100m and 4x100m relay.

First tweets from Olympians

Alex Bilodeau shared heartfelt moment with brother after winning gold

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Alex Bilodeau said that his brother Frederic served as the motivational force that inspired him to put in the training to eventually win moguls gold. With that in mind, it makes a lot of sense that he sought out his brother after claiming that victory on Monday, as this touching video from NBCOlympics.com reveals.

His brother Frederic has cerebral palsy, so observing what he goes through every day prompted Bilodeau to push harder, as he told Reuters.

“The motivation that he has, if he had had the chances like I did, he would have been four times Olympic champion,” Bilodeau said. “He’s a great inspiration, a great person and he’s going to be an inspiration for me after my career, also.”

At 26, Bilodeau could conceivably shoot for a third gold in the challenging freestyle skiing event. If he does, expect an all-out effort from the Canadian moguls skier.

“There’s up and downs, but at least I try, and that’s what my brother taught me,” Bilodeau.