Six years ago in London, Christine Girard was robbed of a chance to stand atop an Olympic podium with a gold medal draped around her neck and the Canadian national anthem playing in the background.
On Monday morning in Ottawa, the Semiahmoo Peninsula Olympian was finally given her due – upgrading her 2012 weightlifting bronze medal to a gold, while also officially receiving her bronze medal from the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
Better late than never.
Both medals came about after the athletes who finished above her were busted for doping infractions.
Girard learned back in April that her bronze medal from the 2012 Summer Olympics in London – won in the women’s 63-kg division – was officially upgraded to gold after the two finishers ahead of her on the podium, Kazakhstan’s Maiya Maneza and Russia’s Svetlana Tsurukaeva, respectively – were discovered to have tested positive for banned substances, leaving Girard as the only clean athlete left from the original trio of podium finishes.
Prior to that news, Girard’s fourth-place finish from the 2008 Olympics had already been bumped to bronze – again, due to doping of athletes ahead of her – but she had never actually received the medal.
— CBC Olympics (@CBCOlympics) December 3, 2018
During Monday’s ceremony, Tricia Smith, the president of the Canadian Olympic Committee, lauded Girard for her “tenacity” and “integrity” and said her medal wins, albeit late, were an example that the “values of our country are being celebrated.”
“Christine has shown incredible strength and perseverance throughout her long career, always competing with integrity and grace. We are so pleased to see her receive the Olympic medals which she has so rightfully earned. She is an inspiring embodiment of the Olympic values and fair and clean sport,” Smith said in a news release Monday morning.
At the 2012 Olympics in London – at which time she had not yet been awarded her 2008 bronze – Girard’s bronze medal was considered a watershed moment for Canadian weightlifting, as she was the first Canadian woman to ever win an Olympic medal in the sport.
In the years since – and especially once her competitors began being cited for doping violations – Girard, who is originally from Rouyn-Noranda, Que., has become an outspoken critic of doping in sports, as well as an advocate for getting young girls involved in weightlifting.
In a first-person account penned for the Canadian Olympic Team’s official website (www.olympic.ca), Girard wrote:
“Obviously, I wasn’t able to celebrate in the moment at the Games and many people were upset for me. ‘You lost your moment!’ No one can give you back what you should (have) had years ago!’ And they are right. I missed out on a lot of things – support, publicity, and money, to name a few.
“Perhaps most importantly, I missed out on the opportunity to showcase weightlifting to Canadians and break stereotypes; to show young girls that it’s okay to want to be strong, that it’s possible and it’s great to be powerful and tenacious.
“But there’s no point thinking about the what ifs. What I gained is much more meaningful.”
At Monday’s event, Girard was led into the room – which was filled with family, friends and supporters – by an RCMP member in Red Serge, a choir sang, and she received her medals while standing atop a podium. Afterwards, she conducted an interview on stage in both English and French, and also posed for a photo on the podium with her three children.
The ceremony was streamed live online by CBC.
In both her on-stage interview and in a news release, Girard took the opportunity to again promote anti-doping initiatives and her quest for weightlifting to become a “clean” sport.
“I want to celebrate this moment with all Canadians as it is a victory of our values. I want people to understand that regardless of your gender or sport, with hard work, determination and a little bit of patience, your dreams are within reach.
“Thank you to everyone who has supported me throughout my journey including my family, friends, coaches and most of all to my country for continuing to believe in promoting equal and clean sport for all.”