It was an Olympic heroes welcome for the unlikeliest of heroes at Calgary International Airport Tuesday.
Gilmore Junio stepped aside to let Denny Morrison race the 1,000 metres at the Winter Olympics in Sochi and watched his teammate deliver a silver for Canada’s first speed skating medal in Sochi and follow that up with a bronze in the 1,500.
But the homecoming in Calgary was all about Junio.
One sign read “Gilmore for PM” while another said “Gilmore Junio won gold in the hearts of Canada”.
“I’m pretty surprised and it definitely caught me off guard,” said a beaming Junio with Morrison at his side. “When we made the decision within our team it was just such an easy decision to let him skate because he was skating so well.
“This was really pleasant surprise. You see this on TV for the hockey players and stuff like that and I never thought I’d be walking into one these. It’s all because of him,” he said with a nod to Morrison. “He makes me look good so I’ll ride his coattails for a bit.”
Morrison, with his silver and bronze medals hanging around his neck, added to Junio’s accolades.
“It’s pretty neat how much attention this has gotten and this guy is one of the greatest guys in the world,” he said. “He does things like this all the time and this is just another one of those things that Gilmore would do.”
Junio’s parents, Gino and Julie, were taken aback by the attention.
“Actually we were just thinking to wait outside in the cell parking lot and I had texted him ‘when you’re done, text me and I’ll pick you up,“’ Gino said with a laugh.
“We didn’t really expect this. We were overwhelmed with the signs of support for him. This is amazing.”
Kelly Murray travelled from Red Deer, Alta., to show off her “Gilbert for PM” sign.
“It’s because what he did for the country was pretty special. There’s not a lot of people who would do that,” she said.
“He must have put the country first ahead of his own ambitions.”
Junio still has his ambitions and refused a request from a photographer to reach over and touch Morrison’s silver medal.
“I’ve said I won’t touch Denny’s medal until I’ve got my own. That’s kind of a hockey player mentality where you don’t touch the Stanley Cup until you get it,” he said.
“But from what I’ve seen it looks pretty good.”
Morrison is hoping to share in a future medal ceremony with his teammate.
“If it all works out to the very best there’ll be a team sprint event in 2018 and we can be on the same team and win together that way.”