Christine Girard is reconnecting with the version of herself who lifted twice her body weight over her head at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
The businesswoman, weightlifting coach and mother of three children will be crowned Olympic champion years later.
The women ahead of her stripped of gold and silver months ago for doping violations, the International Olympic Committee has confirmed the medal redistribution of the women’s 63-kilogram class and Girard’s promotion from bronze to gold.
“It feels like it’s been so long,” Girard told The Canadian Press on Thursday. “I look at videos and pictures that pop up on my Facebook and it really feels like it was another life.”
Girard will receive not only her gold medal from 2012, but also a belated bronze from the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, at a ceremony to be organized by the Canadian Olympic Committee at a later date.
“Yes, it’s overdue, but the message of my medals is now so much stronger,” she said. “I want that moment to be not just for me. I want it for us. It’s a huge win for our country and for clean sport.”
Girard is Canada’s first Olympic champion in weightlifting and the first Canadian to win a pair of medals in the sport.
“She is a weightlifting trailblazer in so many ways and we are extremely proud of her,” COC president Tricia Smith said in a statement.
“Christine has always lived the values of sport and of competing clean. We are so pleased to see her finally receive the Olympic gold medal which she has so rightfully earned.”
Girard, 33, was born in Elliot Lake, Ont., but grew up in Rouyn-Noranda, Que.
She and husband Walter Bailey moved to White Rock, B.C., in 2009. They co-founded the Kilophile Weightlifting Club in Surrey, B.C., in 2012.
Girard gave birth to their third child — a son — in March. The family is moving to Aylmer, Que., in June for Bailey’s job in Ottawa with the RCMP.
The medals — when Girard gets them — will feel like a bridge back to the woman who grimaced with determination as she hoisted 133 kilograms off the mat at the ExCel exhibition centre in London.
“It does feel a bit funny to know that Christina that was in another life will actually get the medals too,” Girard said.
More than 1,500 samples from Beijing and London were re-tested in 2016.
A total of 65 sanctions involving 40 medals were imposed from the Beijing Games, and 45 sanctions impacted 20 medals in London, according to the IOC.
Olympic weightlifting medals are determined by the sum of each lifter’s best result in the snatch and the clean and jerk, with three attempts allowed in each.
Girard’s winning total was 236 kilograms. Kazakhstan’s Maiya Maneza and Russia’s Svetlana Tzarukaeva were disqualified for testing positive for steroids, according to the IOC.
Girard was also bumped up to bronze in 2008 when silver medallist Irina Nekrassova of Kazakhstan also failed a re-test.
Girard can’t help but wonder ‘what if?’
“My years between 2008 and 2012 were the hardest years of my life,” she said. “I was training in a (garage) that was barely heated. I had so many things getting in the way of my medal and my dream of being on the podium.
“If I had come back with a bronze medal in 2008, I think I would have had a lot more support and a lot more financial support that would have definitely changed those four years of my life.
“That being said, those four years allowed me to get on the podium and made the person I am now. I have no regrets, but definitely my life would have been different in a lot of ways.”
Girard also hopes her gold and bronze will help rehabilitate her sport’s image. Bulgaria and Russia were banned from weightlifting at the 2016 Olympic Games for doping offences.
“In my sport, there’s a lot of clean countries,” Girard said. “I think we know who we are and I had a message from Australia saying ‘Hey, you have no idea what this means for us.’
“I think it’s really meaningful to a lot of countries, not just for ours, within our sport. I hope that will help clean the name of my sport.”