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September 19, 2000

Maryse Turcotte places fourth

RYAN PYETTE -- Winnipeg Sun
 SYDNEY -- What women's weightlifting needs is Big Brother.

 Don't collect urine samples. Collect film.

 If this first-time sport wants to hang around the Olympics, it'd better hire cameras to monitor the athletes 24 hours a day for four years.

 Follow them to the bathroom. Follow them to the training room. More than anything, follow them to the pharmacy.

 Sure, it'd erase privacy and destroy what few scraps of democracy remain. But it'd be a useful scientific breakthrough to learn how Mexican Soraya Jimenez Mendivil improved her lifts by more than 40 kilograms in the last 18 months.

 Jimenez appeared out of nowhere to win gold in the women's 58-kg competition last night. Her rise pushed favoured Korean Ri Son Hui off the top of the podium, downgraded expected silver medallist Khassaroporn Suta to bronze, and denied Canada's Maryse Turcotte (fourth) any medal at all.

 "I was really disappointed when I saw some girls lifting 20 kilograms more than last time I saw them," said Turcotte. "But I guess when you're young, you can improve a lot quicker. When you're old like me, it doesn't happen as fast."

 Jimenez, 23, is only two years younger than Turcotte. Before this, she showed no signs of any improvement at all.

 "For three years, the Mexican lifted the same weight, and in the last year-and-a-half, we've seen her improve by over 40 kilos," said Turcotte's coach Pierre Bergeron, Jr. "Maryse went up seven one year, five the next, and two the year after that.

 "At a certain point, you can't improve by leaps and bounds anymore."

 Turcotte was diplomatic in defeat.

 "I'm glad she won, she's from a poor country, and this might help her out," she said.

 This, from a woman who would be paying out of her own pocket for the sport she loves if it wasn't for some funding from NHL defenceman Sylvain Lefebvre, whose foundation helps struggling athletes in Quebec.

 Turcotte knew what a medal meant here. She would have singlehandedly lifted the profile of women's weightlifting back home. She would've given it a clean face, so to speak.


 "Maryse doesn't even take aspirin, not even multi-vitamins," said Bergeron.

 Her coach knows Canadians would've fell in love with Maryse, seeing this young, charismatic, always-smiling ball of energy on the podium. Sponsors would have loved seeing her lift 90 kilos in the first round and then bend down to kiss the weight in happiness.

 Maybe folks back home would've said: "Hey, we've got someone good in that sport. That sport must be OK."

 That's what Turcotte wanted.

 What she got were questions about the women's side being as crooked as the men's.

 "You hope everybody's on the same level," smiled Turcotte. "In this sport, you get tested more than the others. Everybody here passed the last test, so what can you say?"

 You can say the tests aren't good enough.

 That Canada got hood-winked again.

 "Maryse couldn't have done any better," said Bergeron. "She won her own gold medal today."

 Unfortunately, her gold medal doesn't count in the standings.

 It doesn't help the sport's profile in Canada. It doesn't catch the sponsor's eye. It doesn't encourage young girls to join up so Turcotte can have some teammates next time around.

 "I really believe a fourth-place finish can do that, too," she said.

 That's wishful thinking, Maryse.

 Kinda like believing that, last night, all the other lifters were on the level.

Reprinted with permission

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