Maude Garon Charron, weightlifter (born 28 April 1993 in Rimouski, QC). At the 2020 Olympic Summer Games in Tokyo, Maude Charron became only the second Canadian ever to win an Olympic gold medal in weightlifting, after Christine Girard in 2012. Charron, who came to the sport following training as a gymnast and a circus performer, won in the women’s 64 kg weight class. She also won gold medals in weightlifting at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and at the 2018 World University Weightlifting Championships.
Maude Charron is the middle child of her parents, Jean and Claire. She has an older brother, Dominic, and a younger sister, Sarah. As a child, Maude began participating in gymnastics at age four and competing at age seven or eight. When she was seven, she first expressed an interest in weightlifting, after seeing someone lift weights in a movie. However, when Maude told her parents she wanted to try the sport, they said she was not tall enough (she grew to be only 5-foot-1 and 140 lb) and encouraged her to remain in gymnastics.
While attending Paul-Hubert High School in Rimouski, Charron was active in gymnastics and played oboe in the high school band. As her music teacher, Marie-Anick Arsenault, later told the CBC, “She had chosen the oboe, which I consider the most difficult among wind instruments. To her, what is difficult just seems like a challenge. You just have to work on it, put the effort into it, and you will succeed. Whether with an oboe or a barbell in her hands, she moves forward.”
In her late teens, Charron attended École de cirque de Québec and dreamed of joining Cirque du Soleil. However, her aspirations were sidelined by a litany of injuries. At age 19, she quit her circus training and began studying business management at the Université du Québec à Rimouski.
Move to Weightlifting
When Charron was 19, a friend introduced her to CrossFit, a workout regime that includes plyometric jumping, explosive body movements, lifting kettlebells and weightlifting. Charron found that she excelled at the latter. Benjamin Jean, the owner of the gym where Charron trained, began training her.
After Charron performed well at the 2015 Reebok CrossFit Games Open, her first weightlifting coach, Serge Chrétien, encouraged her to pursue it competitively. “I didn’t really enjoy weightlifting more when I started, seriously,” Charron once told an interviewer. “In gymnastics, circus, CrossFit, there is a variety of movement, but weightlifting is basically two movements, and it’s a boring sport for training. But my coach [Chretién] suggested to me very strongly that I could go a long way in weightlifting. I put my ego away and went for the sport that chose me.”
DID YOU KNOW?
Weightlifting competitions comprise two events: the snatch (lifting the barbell from the floor directly over your head and standing with arms locked and legs straight) and the clean and jerk, or C&J (lifting the barbell to your shoulders as you stand, then lifting it fully over your head in a separate motion). Lifters must hold their final pose until at least two of three judges signal a “good lift.” Each competitor gets three attempts in each event and is allowed one minute for each attempt. The competitor’s best scores in each are combined. The athletes are then ranked by total score. At some international competitions, such as the World Championships, titles are also awarded for the best individual lifts in each weight class (there are eight for men and seven for women).
Charron started competing in women’s weightlifting in 2015. At the 2016 Senior Canadian Weightlifting Championships in Richmond, British Columbia, she won gold in the 63 kg division with a total score of 204 kg. She then defended her title at the 2017 national championships in La Prairie, Quebec, with a gold-medal total of 209 kg.
At the 2017 Pan American Weightlifting Championships in Miami, Charron won the bronze medal in the 63 kg division with a total score of 215 kg. At the 2017 World Championships in Anaheim, she finished second in the snatch with a lift of 102 kg and placed fifth overall.
Charron had a banner year in 2018. She won gold at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia, and also at the World University Weightlifting Championships in Biała Podlaska, Poland. In Australia, Charron lifted 220 kg total. Her clean and jerk lift of 122 kg set a Commonwealth Games record. In Poland, Charron lifted 226 kg total. Charron also won her third straight Canadian title by lifting 215 kg total.
The 2019 weightlifting season saw Charron place fourth at the Pan American Championship in Guatemala, fourth at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, and sixth at the 2019 World Weightlifting Championships in Pattaya, Thailand. Charron also won gold at the 2019 national championships in La Prairie, Quebec, and at international events in Peru, Las Vegas and Colombia.
2020 Olympic Summer Games
Charron qualified for the 2020 Olympic Summer Games in Tokyo with a silver medal finish (235 kg total) in the women’s 64 kg class at the 2020 Weightlifting World Cup in Rome, Italy, in January 2020. However, beginning in March, the COVID-19 pandemic proved to be a major challenge for Canadian athletes training for the Olympics, because it led to lockdowns and public restrictions. The gym she trained at was closed, so Charron built a mini gym in her father’s garage. She trained regularly in the unheated and dusty space with her dog, Murph, and filled the room with Japanese symbols as a reminder of what she was working toward.
When competition was ready to return, Charron was in top form. At the 2020 Pan American Weightlifting Championships in the Dominican Republic, she set Pan American records in the snatch (107 kg), the clean and jerk (133 kg) and the combined score (240 kg). However, she did not win a medal in a full competition at the World Weightlifting Championships or the Pan American Games.
At the Olympic Games, Charron posted a lift of 105 kg in the snatch and 131 kg in the C&J for a total of 236 kg. Giorgia Bordignon of Italy won the silver medal with 232 kg and Wen-Huei Chen of Chinese-Taipei won bronze with 230 kg.