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Olympic slopestyle bronze medallist Mark McMorris returning home to Regina

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TORONTO - When Olympic slopestyle bronze medallist Mark McMorris heads home to Regina on Saturday, he'll be bracing for a big welcome from fervent fans and hankering for time with pals and a plate of his mom's homemade pasta.

"I'm kind of scared. I hope nobody knows my flight details," the snowboarding heart-throb and social media sensation said with a big smile during a Friday interview.

"No, it'll be good. I'm just excited to see some of my friends that couldn't come out to Russia. It'll be cool to go home to my home province.

"Knowing that Canada watched was cool, but I'm sure Saskatchewan was glued."

The first thing he wants to do when he arrives? Go to his parents' house and chow down.

"I don't remember the last time I had a homemade meal," said the 20-year-old. "My mom will probably make some sort of dish. I like basic foods. I love her spaghetti bolognese. I love all of her cooking."

He also plans to visit his favourite restaurant and coffee shop.

"I live in the east end of the city and the amount of time I spend at Earls East Regina is obnoxious," said McMorris. "All my really good friends work there and they always treat us really well, so I always like to go there when I come home.

"Brewed Awakening, that's a coffee shop by my house I love to go to. But anywhere I think would be fun to go to now. I think everybody's really happy and will be excited to have me home."

The first-time Olympian — considered a prodigy in his sport for his innovative triple corks — pushed through the pain of a broken rib last Saturday to snag a bronze in men's snowboard slopestyle, which made its Olympic debut in Sochi.

He was the first Canadian to medal in the new event and the first Canuck to earn a medal at the 2014 Games.

Watching from the sidelines in Sochi were his parents as well as his uncle, two aunts and older brother Craig, a fellow snowboarder who's been working as a commentator for slopestyle events at the Games.

"The McMorris clan was large and they were loud, too, so it was really cool," said McMorris, who earned the nickname McRib for his triumph over injury.

"All the ups and downs that I went through, and then to have them there and know I was on the podium, it's just like: 'Ah, it's all worthwhile, all the hard work.'"

"The last two years have been just this massive battle to get here and it feels like everything was going by and happening, but it was all like: 'It's for the Olympics, it's for the Olympics, let's get to the Olympics,'" he continued.

"Now it's like this huge monkey off my back."

The anvil of pressure has, of course, been replaced by the weight of his heavy bronze medal that he's been wearing and carrying around since he won.

"The first night, in Europe you have like two small beds and it was just me in the room, but I put it on the pillow on the other bed and slept facing it like, 'Hey!'" he said with a laugh.

The win is "slowly sinking in more and more every day," noted McMorris, who won back-to-back gold medals in the 2012 and 2013 Winter X Games in slopestyle.

"It's hard to really realize the magnitude until you come back to Canada and then it's like, 'Wow, there were a lot of people watching.' It's a really amazing feeling.'"

McMorris said he left Sochi for Toronto on Tuesday because "the village is super focused and all the athletes are still competing."

Since then he's been on a media blitz that's left him feeling "tired but ... happy" — and excited for the superstardom that awaits.

McMorris already had a huge fanbase going into the Olympics (he's been featured in "Rolling Stone" magazine and has a an MTV docu-series series with his brother), but his medal win has vaulted him into another stratosphere of fame.

In Toronto this week he was greeted by gaggles of girls — some offering gifts of Timbits — outside the TV and radio stations he visited at the crack of dawn.

He was also swarmed on Wednesday when he stood up to stretch during halftime at a Toronto Raptors basketball game.

"The security finally found me and was like, 'I'm staying beside you,'" he said, wearing a Tilley hat and a chambray shirt with the cuffs rolled up to reveal his right forearm tattoo that reads "Live for the Moment."

"I was like, 'I can handle my fans.' They're like, 'You have a medal in your pocket, we're going to make sure we're near in case anything happens.'"

McMorris said he feels all the attention is "positive," noting it just means he needs "to watch out a little bit" when it comes to what he does, where he goes and what he says.

He's not worried he'll get out of hand, though.

"I've never been a loose cannon, to be truthfully honest," he said. "I've never felt the need to have to be careful. I can always celebrate, because I try to never ever get to a point where it's too much, you know."

"I have good parents that have raised me in a way that I'm extremely thankful for," added the son of Saskatchewan MLA Don McMorris.

"They can't stress enough how grounded you need to be and how polite you should be. I think it was so driven into my life that even if I tried to get out of it, it wouldn't work."

McMorris said his girlfriend, professional Hawaiian surfer Coco Ho, is "strong-willed" and handling the attention he's getting in stride.

"She's got the same problems with little boys, so it's kind of like a vice-versa world," he said as Ho sat listening nearby.

"It's all good. Hey, you know what? Fans are fans, so if they like you, they like you and I'll take it."

McMorris predicts Canada will "probably be in the Top 2" when the Games are done.

And he feels slopestyle has been "received very, very well" in its Olympic debut.

Since he's been back, he's been cheating on his Olympic diet a bit, he admitted.

"I had a muffin at breakfast today. The quinoa salad bowls are slowly diminishing out for a little bit, but that's OK."

His said his rib is still painful and will need at least another week to heal.

But he added with a grin as he held up his medal: "Nothing this thing can't fix. That's my new line."

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