Olympic weightlifting champion Christine Girard became Canada’s chef de mission for the 2023 Pan Am Games

Former Canadian weightlifter Christine Girard, pictured above in 2018 with her two Olympic medals, was named Canada's chef de mission for the Pan Am Games on Thursday.  (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press - photo credit)

Former Canadian weightlifter Christine Girard, pictured above in 2018 with her two Olympic medals, was named Canada’s chef de mission for the Pan Am Games on Thursday. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press – photo credit)

Canadian weightlifter Christine Girard has seen everything from near-podium losses to improved medals, from disappointment to triumph.

Now she hopes to pass that experience on to the next generation of athletes.

The Canadian Olympic Committee announced Thursday that Girard will serve as chef de mission for Team Canada at the upcoming Pan Am Games, taking place October 20-November 5 in Santiago, Chile.

“I like to compare my role to being kind of the mother of the team,” Girard told CBC Sports. “I want to prepare them, clean in front of them, make sure everything is organized and be there for them, cheer them on, be there when things are going well, be there when things aren’t going so well.”

Girard, the 38-year-old from Rouyn-Noranda, Que., competed in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games. She first finished a heartbreaking fourth-place finish in the former before winning Canada’s first-ever weightlifting medal, bronze, at the latter Games.

In 2018, she was bumped to bronze for 2008 and gold for 2012 due to positive doping tests from athletes ahead of her.

Girard also competed in three Pan Am Games, progressing from eighth to silver and eventually gold.

She said her message to Canadian athletes competing in Chile is to trust the process.

“It’s not just a matter of what we do, but how we do it that makes us proud Canadians. I often say that my whole country won when I received my medal, right? It’s the values ​​of our country that have made these medals possible,” Girard said.

CLOCK | Girard finally gets upgraded medals in 2018:

COC chief sport officer Eric Myles said Girard is the total package for a chef de mission.

“She is an incredibly accomplished athlete. She is an inspirational role model and a strong advocate for promoting clean play. With her ability to build relationships and connect with athletes, as well as her experience and passion, Christine will be a great asset to the team Canada as we head towards Santiago 2023,” he said.

Unlike the Olympics, where everyone has a golden goal, the Pan Am Games can bring different goals for different athletes — especially if they come less than a year before the Paris 2024 Olympics.

For some, like weightlifters, the Pan Ams are an Olympic qualifier. Others are there to experience a gaming environment, perhaps for the first time, with the results being secondary. Winning remains a priority, but not the only one.

“I feel like I’ve seen sport from so many different angles,” Girard said. “I want to be the person who gets what they’re going through and help them be as successful as possible and achieve their own goals.”

Athletes come first

Girard, who retired from competition after the 2012 Olympics, has since worked with the International Testing Agency and the Canadian Center for Ethics in Sport to promote clean sport.

She said she looks forward to returning to an athletic role.

“I think it’s more the values ​​that my story brings and that I bring with me that will impact how I will be a chef de mission. I think that’s more where it will show,” she said.

Meanwhile, Canadian athletes – particularly over the past year – have discovered a stronger voice than ever to speak out against abuse in amateur sports.

Girard hopes to continue to strengthen her group at the Pan Am Games.

“What we like to see when we watch sport is athlete stories and to see how they did it and how inspiring their stories are,” she said. “So I think it’s really important that we protect them and surround the environment in a way that they make the best of it.”

The Pan Am Games are held every four years between North and South American countries. Most sports are also part of the Olympic program, with exceptions such as bodybuilding, futsal and polo.

The last Pan Am Games took place in Lima, Peru in 2019. Canada won the third most medals (152) and fourth most gold medals (35). The US led on both counts.

Live coverage of the Pan Am Games 2023 will be available on the CBC and CBC Sports platforms.


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