Road To The Olympic Games

Youth Olympics

Calgary's Andrew Longino named flag-bearer after rocketing to Canada's 1st gold of Youth Olympics

Calgary skier Andrew Longino captured Canada's first gold medal at the Youth Olympics early Tuesday afternoon in Switzerland. His key to golden success? The sweet sounds of Elton John.

17-year-old freestyle skier was listening to Elton John’s Rocketman before winning run

Canada's Andrew Longino celebrates with his gold medal in the men's freeski halfpipe on Tuesday. He was later named Canada's flag-bearer for Wednesday's closing ceremony of the Youth Olympics in Switzerland. (Thomas Skrlj for COC/CBC)

LAUSANNE — Calgary skier Andrew Longino has been named Canada's flag-bearer for Wednesday's closing ceremony at the Youth Olympics.

The 17-year-old skier captured Canada's first and only gold medal at the Games on Tuesday in the men's freeski halfpipe event.

"It's a huge honour," Longino told CBC Sports. "I've been watching the Olympics since I was a kid and to lead Canada into the closing ceremony, I don't really have words to describe it. It's an amazing feeling."

Longino received the news from Team Canada chef de mission Annamay Oldershaw just minutes after being awarded his gold medal in front of hundreds of people at the medal plaza in Lausanne.

"It's been a really great day. I've never had this much attention in my life. I feel so lucky to be doing this," he said.

"To bring the flag in and lead the country in [Wednesday] night will be so special.

Earlier in the day, Longino won the mens' halfpipe ski event to capture Canada's first gold medal at the Youth Olympics.

His key to golden success? The sweet sounds of Elton John.

Just before dropping into the halfpipe at the Leysin Park and Pipe venue for his final run, Longino was blasting Elton John's Rocket Man into his headphones, the music simultaneously calming him and motivating him before laying down the best performance of the day.

"I usually listen to rap before my runs but on the flight over I watched the Rocketman movie. It pumped me up," Longino said. "I'm getting into the Elton John now. Rocket Man blasting off. That's me. It's my new favourite song. It got me fired up."

Longino twisted and turned his body as he launched out of the halfpipe, spinning his skis and shooting himself into the air along the sunbathed Swiss Alps.

On this memorable day the 17-year-old wasn't going to be beat, in a different skiing stratosphere and rocketing to the top of the podium. His final run score of 94.00 was eight points better than the next competitor.

"It's amazing. I'm so grateful to have this experience," Longino said. "Winning is an amazing bonus. I'm super happy to be able to represent my country."

Andrew Longino competes in the men's slopestyle qualification event on Monday. (Thomas Skrlj/COC/CBC)

Less than 24 hours before Longino's golden performance on Tuesday, he failed to qualify for the men's freeski slopestyle event, finishing 17th out of 26.

But instead of letting the disappointment set the tone for the rest of his Games, Longino embraced the moment and refocused for the halfpipe.

WATCH | Calgary's Andrew Longino grab Canada's first gold medal in Swiss Alps

Canadian Andrew Longino wins the mens' halfpipe ski event with a top run score of 94.00. 1:26

"I've been watching sports my whole life. The Olympics. To wear the maple leaf on my chest is just a really special feeling," he said Monday after his final qualification run.

But on Tuesday, with his mother Sally, father Dave, and grandfather Dave Thomas all in attendance watching, Longino skied to gold.

Andrew Longino with mom Sally. (Devin Heroux/CBC Sports)
"It's been amazing. Kids screaming and cheering you on. It' s a really special feeling to be able to compete for Canada," Longino said.

Longino started skiing when he was nine. Sally said it's been remarkable to watch her son complete and said she's never seen her son so excited for a competition.

"The day before he left for the Youth Olympics, he told me this was the most excited he's been in his life," she said.

Before every competition throughout his life, she sends her son a note of good luck. Tuesday was no different.

"All I tell him is to have some fun out there, my boy, and that I love you. I text him that every morning. He doesn't respond. He just knows that I'm thinking about him," she said.

Andrew says it means the world to him to have the support of his parents.

"They both text me this morning. My dad told me I shouldn't be nervous and that he's proud of me regardless of what happens," Longino said. "I can't believe I just won gold at the Youth Olympics with them watching."

WATCH | Liam Brearley wins 2nd medal of Games:

Canadian snowboarder Liam Brearley wins the bronze medal in halfpipe with a top run score of 82.00. 1:38

How Canada fared Tuesday:

Liam Brearley of Gravenhurst, Ont., won his second medal of the Youth Olympics, taking bronze in the men's snowboard halfpipe. Brearley won silver in snowboard slopestyle on Monday.

In men's hockey, Canada lost 2-1 to the U.S., and will play in the bronze-medal game on Wednesday.