When Christine Girard was lifting for a chance at a silver medal, she thought she was lifting for bronze.
So when she failed in her final clean-and-jerk attempt – in her mind, knocking her just off the podium for the second straight Summer Olympics – only to be told, moments later, that her performance was still good enough for a medal, she did something she hadn’t expected to do.
She started to cry.
“I was in a such a bubble when I was competing. Everyone else knew I had the bronze, but I didn’t,” she said Tuesday, a day after returning to White Rock with her husband, Walter Bailey.
“When I missed, and thought I was fourth, for a few seconds I was destroyed, I was so sad. But that change from disappointment to ‘Oh my God, I did it’ was amazing.
“I didn’t know how I would react. I just burst into tears, I was so happy.”
Girard’s bronze in the 63-kg division – Canada’s first-ever Olympic women’s weightlifting medal – came after she lifted 103 kg in the snatch, followed by 133 kg in the clean-and-jerk. Her score in the clean-and-jerk beat fourth-place finisher Sibel Simsek of Turkey by three kg.
At the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, Girard finished fourth, losing bronze by the same three-kg difference.
She insists, though, that her new Olympic medal is not necessarily vindication for four years ago, but instead the culmination of nearly two decades of hard work.
“It’s not just the last four years, but really, I feel like I’ve reached a new level now. I’ve been doing this for 17 years, and finally I have my medal. It means a lot,” Girard said.
The 27-year-old Quebec native, who has lived on the Peninsula for four years, left Wednesday for her home province, where she plans on spending the next 10 days visiting her family.
And as has been the case since she won her medal July 31, she expects to field many requests to show it off during her stay.
“For now, I bring it almost everywhere with me because everyone wants to see it. I don’t know what I’ll do with it once people get bored of it,” she laughed.
Girard admits she was surprised at the reception she and other B.C. Olympians – including South Surrey swimmer Richard Weinberger and members of the national women’s soccer team – received when they arrived at Vancouver International Airport Monday. Hundreds of fans showed up – many decked out in red and carrying Canadian flags – to pay tribute to the country’s local heroes.
“It was really neat, but unexpected. I didn’t think it would be that much,” said Girard. “What was best was seeing all the kids there, and being able to chat with them and see their eyes shine because they were able to touch an Olympic medal.”