Christine Girard with her bronze medal from the 2012 Summer Olympics.

One step closer to Olympic gold for South Surrey weightlifter

2012 bronze medallist Christine Girard in line for gold after two other competitors officially stripped of their medals.

Christine Girard is one step closer to officially becoming an Olympic gold medallist.

The 32-year-old South Surrey weightlifter won bronze in the women’s 63-kg division at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, but last year, both the gold and silver medallists – Kazakhstan’s Maiya Maneza and Russia’s Svetlana Tsurukaeva, respectively – were discovered to have tested positive for banned substances.

Maneza was officially stripped of her medal last fall, and Tsurukaeva was officially sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee Wednesday, leaving just one final step – the actual handing of the gold medal to Girard – still to come.

“It’s becoming official now – finally,” Girard told Peace Arch News Thursday morning. “It’s about time.”

In 2012, Girard’s bronze-medal win was a watershed moment for Canadian weightlifting – she was the first Canadian woman to win an Olympic medal.

Now, she’s in line for the country’s first-ever gold.

She is also set to become Canada’s first two-time medallist, as she is also owed a bronze medal from the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Girard finished fourth in that competition, but the silver-medallist was stripped of her medal last fall.

The native of Rouyn-Noranda, Que. also took to to social media to express her feelings on the process. On Twitter, she wrote, in French: “One step more today, one more step towards this gold medal that I should have had already.”

With both her 2008 and ’12 events tainted by doping scandals, Girard said Thursday that, while excited for her medal upgrades, her Olympic memories have soured, if only slightly. Had she won gold on-site in London, for example, she would have heard the Canadian anthem played during the medal ceremony. She also knows her life would have been very different – in terms of athletic funding, publicity and even confidence – between both Games, had she won bronze in 2008 as opposed to 2012.

“Those four years were very hard for me, training here every day in my carport,” she said.

She said she has tried not to let those negative experiences affect her outlook on the sport, and instead wants to set a good example for future lifters, while also making sure others view Canadian athletes as clean.

“I’m always been very proud to be Canadian, and it’s very important to me to (seen) as a clean athlete,” said the now-retired athlete, who runs Kilophile Weightlifting Club in Langley.

“They need to know that we are clean, and that we can compete with the best (without doping).”

The IOC release Wednesday that announced the stripping of Tsurukaeva’s medal – as well as sanctions against two male wrestlers from the 2008 Olympics – did not set a timeline for when Girard might expect to recieve her gold medal, or her 2008 bronze.

“The only thing I know is that the (sanctioned) athlete has a few months to appeal, then a few months to give the medal back. And if she doesn’t (return it) then they have to make a new one,” Girard said.

“So I’m expecting it will be a few more months.”