Local weightlifter Sylvie Guénette has taken part in competitions all over the map – Kelowna, B.C.; Gaspé, Que.; Barcelona, Spain – but it was a garage in Whitefish, Ontario where she won her first international gold medal.
Guénette won the gold in the women’s age 55-59, under 64-kilogram category, in the Virtual World Masters Weightlifting Championships (the event was originally slated to be held in Kansai, Japan, before COVID-19 hit). She bested the four other women in her category, lifting 47 kilograms in the snatch (lifting the barbell from the ground over your head in one motion) and 64 kilograms in the clean and jerk (lifting the barbell to your chest and then raising it above your head) for a total of 111.
That score was a few kilos short of the personal best she set at the 2018 Pan Am Masters, but considering that she’s moved up in age groups and how complicated training was over the past year, she’s thrilled with the performance.
“I’m very happy with those numbers because with COVID, doing this in a garage, doing this on my own and then having just a coach in the last month, I think I did pretty good,” she beams.
Guénette acknowledges she wasn’t truly on her own; she is appreciative of the help she received along the way, starting with her “rock,” partner Tim McAuliffe. McAuliffe converted his garage to a workout area and that’s where the two trained throughout the pandemic, using programs designed by weightlifting coach Hani Kanama. In the final month leading up to the contest, Johanna Gatien, a fellow weightlifter out of Sudbury, came onboard to help coach, which Guénette says really helped her “get [her] mojo back.”
McAuliffe, Gatien, and Pat Boileau were all there on the day of the event, May 24, to help with the stream and to load the barbell. The Norsemen and Valkyries Weightlifting Club in North Bay also loaned Guénette their competition-level equipment: without it she wouldn’t have been eligible to compete.
On the day of the virtual competition, even though she was just lifting in front of three friends and a computer, Guénette says she was a bundle of nerves. She is used to performing for crowds – she is also a drummer playing in a number of bands over the years – so the absence of spectators actually made her more jittery than if there were hundreds of people watching.