The snowboard medallist Billy Morgan, the British flag bearer at Sunday’s closing ceremony, feared he was in trouble just before hearing the news – because he had partied so hard hours earlier that he ended up riding through the Olympic Village on a shopping trolley.
The hugely likeable Morgan, 28, ensured Britain hit its medal target of five at these Winter Olympics with a surprise bronze medal in big air on Saturday and then had a night to remember – not that he could, truth be told.
“I got called into the room and I thought I was in trouble but they gave me the honour of being the flag bearer, so it’s both crazy and a real honour,” he said, sounding both delighted and still tender.
After promising he was “in bed pretty early” there was an almost Pinteresque pause before he elaborated further. “I sent it too hard, too early and peaked out,” he said. “All the Kiwis got there and asked ‘where’s Billy’ but I’d gone. I don’t remember but apparently I was taken back in a trolley.”
Morgan, who worked as a roofer for years so he could snowboard in the winter, said he hoped his medal would inspire other working-class children to take up snowboarding. He also dedicated his medal to his father, Eddie, 64, who is recovering from an aneurysm.
“He’s healthy but it was a bad one,” he said. “He completely lost feeling in his right-hand side, his arm and his leg but he can walk now. His speech is pretty bad too but he’s getting better all the time. And what’s important is that he’s got a smile on his face.”
Morgan, who also made headlines four years ago at the Sochi Games for dancing with a toilet seat around his neck after the closing ceremony, admitted he was a chip off the old block. “Everyone knows him as Mad Eddie because he is a bit of a loose dude,” he conceded. “He’s an engineer so he made some crazy stuff in his day. Once he even shot himself with a booby trap – he was in the papers for that.”
“We had burglars come into our house,” he added by way of explanation. “It wasn’t actually going to be a booby trap to hurt them, just to go ‘bang!’ if they climbed over the fence. But he shot himself in the stomach with a 12-gauge cartridge. He was like testing it out and fiddling with it and, yeah, he had to go to hospital.”
Not that his dad believed his son would make a career from snowboarding. “I didn’t really get on well with the academic stuff,” said Morgan. “There was a time when my dad kept asking when I was going to get a job, because I completely flopped at college and just went snowboarding.
“After I’d done two seasons, he was like ‘you can’t just be on a jolly’. It was around the time I joined the British team and started training. But he’s always been really supportive.”
Morgan also urged UK Sport to consider giving approval to a new snow and ski centre in Manchester to bring through a new generation, after it was parked last year. “It all comes down to facilities and we need more if we want to push the sport further,” he said. “Freestyle academies have been popping up all over the world and it would be amazing if we had something like that.”
There are already suggestions that Britain’s Winter Olympic medallists will be rewarded in the next honours list but when Morgan was asked his feelings on getting an MBE he looked confused. “What’s that?” he replied, confessing he had never heard of it.
When told it would involve meeting the Queen, he then looked panicked. “Oh no,” he told reporters. “That makes me more anxious just thinking about it. This stuff makes me nervous enough.”
For now, at least, the medal he has in his pocket is more than enough to think about.