Christine Girard, who chose love over the money most Olympians need to afford to train, now has it all after winning a bronze medal in women's weightlifting.
In a sublime reversal of fortune, the 27-year-old who lost a medal by just three kilograms in Beijing won the country's first women's weightlifting medal by the slimmest of margins — by one kilo over Turkey's Sibel Simsek in the women's 63-kg class. The beauty of getting on the podium, of course, is no one asks by how much, so it might as well be someone else who has to reconcile that she did the most she could.
From James Mirtle:
It appeared [Girard] was in for a repeat of her fourth place finish in the 2008 Olympics, but two big lifts in the clean and jerk guaranteed her a third place finish.
Girard, 27, fell just three kilograms shy of a medal in Beijing lifting a total of 228 kilograms (102 and 126).
She later said the experience left her "completely destroyed."
Girard then lifted 130 kilograms on her first [clean and jerk] attempt and 133 on her second to finish with a combined total of 236 kilograms, edging out Simsek [with 235] for a medal. (Globe & Mail)
Girard, 27, has moved around the country during her preparation for these Games. A big take-home from her bio, one that probably resonates with female athletes in particular, but probably also male counterparts who have to balance ambitions against angst about settling down into adulthood, is the choices she has had to make. While it makes for a cute story that she is coached by her spouse, Walter Bailey, there was an opportunity cost to switching her home base away from Quebec.
What's evident in Girard is a goodly amount of perseverance. At times she has trained alone, trained in barns, changed coaches, switched provinces, to B.C. from Quebec, and changed coaches some more. Her move west was precipitated by her marriage to B.C.-born Walter Bailey, a former competitive weightlifter who works for the RCMP.
On the plus side, Girard gained a husband, companion and training coach. What she lost was a considerable amount of funding. In Quebec, the provincial government well supports its athletes; in B.C., not as much. The difference — $15,000 — was a significant shortfall. It led to several coaching changes.
"Being a coach in Canada is a volunteer job, they're not paid," said Girard, who was born in Northern Ontario but grew up in Rouyn-Noranda, Que., with sisters who first got involved in weightlifting. "It's hard to find someone who can give as much at our level. The job requires a lot. I had a coach who asked for a lot of money." (Globe & Mail, June 1)
The Canadian Olympic Committee pays athletes a $10,000 bonus for a bronze medal and coaches receive $5,000. That helps, but Girard and Bailey could never put a price on finally surmounting the barrier between medalist and almost-there.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.