'It's not a man's sport': Maude Charron seeks to inspire new generation of female weightlifters
Quebec gold medallist hopes win encourages young girls to follow their dreams
Quebec's Olympic weightlifting gold medallist Maude Charron is back home after a hard-fought, emotional victory at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games on Tuesday.
"I still feel like I'm on cloud nine... It's going to take a couple of weeks to realize what this win means," she told reporters Friday outside Montreal's Olympic Stadium, sporting her medal.
The 28-year-old Rimouski, Que., native triumphed in the 64-kilogram division in women's weightlifting, hoisting a combined total of 236 kg (more than 500 lbs) to secure gold — the latest in the string of female athletes dominating Canada's performance at the games.
"There were so many emotions in such a short period of time," Charron said of her thrilling win, where she became visibly emotional.
She wasn't the only one who was moved to tears during the competition.
"I cried the entire time," said 18-year-old Rivian Langelier, a member at the weightlifting club Gym les Géants in Montreal's southwest, where Charron trained.
"It was very emotional and I saw all the effort that the girls put into the competition and I thought it was beautiful to watch," she said.
A weightlifter herself and interim coach at the club, the teen says she felt immense pride that Charron trained at the same gym as her. "I was like, 'I know her!'"
Langelier is filling in at the gym owned by Charron's coach, Jean-Patrick Millette, while he's in Tokyo.
Empowering girls, dispelling myths
One week into the Tokyo Olympics, Canada has won 11 medals — all by women.
This is only Canada's second Olympic gold medal in weightlifting of all time, after Christine Girard won at the London 2012 Games. For Charron, she believes her win could help empower girls and women everywhere to trust their bodies and believe in their dreams.
"I hope when women will get into the gym, they'll try those intimidating barbells," she said. "They're heavy, they're big, but we can do it also."
She seeks to dispel the myth that weightlifting isn't a sport intended for women. "It's not a man's sport. If you check who qualified for Canada, four of the five were women. So we are strong in Canada," she said.
Sinead Chapdelaine, 15, is one youth already receiving Charron's message loud and clear.
"I found it really inspiring and just like, this hopeful thing that even though you are woman, you are expected to do lesser or whatever, you can go beyond that and be like really great," said the weightlifter who also trains at the same gym as Charron and under the Olympian's coach.
Millette remains in Tokyo with another weightlifting athlete from his Montreal gym. Despite Charron's win being a victory for him as well, he says he doesn't remember much.
"I have no recollection, I blacked out," he joked, recalling immense elation and pride. He said he remembers telling Charron that she deserves everything coming her way.
He said her win transcends weightlifting, saying it will push young women to participate in all sports. And her humility in the wake of a victory is an added bonus.
"It's not just the best athlete that won — it's the best person," he said. "She is a great role model. She will empower so many young kids."
Charron says winning at the Olympics comes with a certain responsibility, and she wants young athletes to know that she is there to support them.
"I hope they won't be too shy to ask me questions and talk about their concerns," she said. "I'm here to help."
With files from Sarah Leavitt and Marie-Hélène Hétu