WHITE ROCK - A handcrafted gym attached to a modest White Rock bungalow is not where you would expect to find world-class athletic talent.
But those Spartan surroundings are the forge in which Christine Gerrard aspires to turn massive round slabs of iron into smaller discs of gold, silver and bronze.
Born and raised in Quebec, Gerrard arrived in White Rock three years ago with her RCMP officer fiancé. Her first order of business as a homemaker was to turn the garage into a workspace where she could continue her quest to become Canada's most decorated female weightlifter.
"I work out in there all the time. It's a bit small and I have to move things around," she said, before adding with a giggle: "I actually broke the floor. I pulled up the mats and the floor was all cracked."
At 27, Gerrard is one of the top female weightlifters on the planet. She holds the Canadian records for the 63-kilogram weight class for the snatch (106kgs), clean-and-jerk (134kgs) and combined (238kgs). She also possesses the records for the Pan-American Games and Commonwealth Games as well.
Last month at the Canadian Championships near Montreal, Gerrard finished first in her category with a combined total of 233kgs after lifting 103kgs in the snatch and 130kgs in the clean and jerk. First place might please some competitors but for an elite athlete like Gerrard, the Montreal results were disappointing.
"I didn't do what I wanted to do," she said. "I only made two attempts out of six - one in the clean-and-jerk and one in the snatch. Obviously that means I missed four out of six so I'm not happy with that. It wasn't the best day for me but I still managed to finish first overall so that was good. My main goal though was to beat my best and I didn't do that so that wasn't good."
While her numbers disappointed her, the results clinched a spot for Gerrard on the Canadian team that will compete at the 2012 Olympic Games in London this summer. That's when countless hours spent toiling in the tiny makeshift garage/gym will finally pay off.
Four years ago, Gerrard experienced her first taste of Olympic fever at the 2008 Games in Beijing. She was amazed at the atmosphere at the event and narrowly missed a medal by three kilograms, finishing fourth overall.
She returned to Canada determined to work even harder to make her goal of an Olympic medal become a reality.
"It does drive me because even though I missed the podium, it proved that my dream of winning a medal was realistic," she said. "Weightlifting for women is still new at the Olympics so all the time I was growing up, I dreamed of winning a medal but I knew it was impossible. Then I got to compete in Beijing and I finished fourth so I knew my dream was not impossible. I was so close and that has obviously driven me for the past four years to get better. I have no regrets for how I did in Beijing because I feel I did everything I could that day. I was ranked seventh and I finished fourth so I gained three ranking spots which was great.
"Instead of worrying about missing a medal by three kilos, I concentrate on all the things I did right. If I do more of those things, I'll be even better in London. There is a quote that says: the more I work, the luckier I get. Hopefully that will be true."
Gerrard's hard work is paying off. She blew away her personal best numbers for all aspects of weightlifting competition, far exceeding the 226 combined kilos she lifted for fourth place in Beijing.
Last November in Paris, Gerrard finished seventh overall in the prestigious Group A (top 10 lifters in the world) with a combined total of 238kgs. That result is impressive considering the worlds have far more entries and much laxer drug testing standards than will be in place at the London Olympics.
"Paris was a really good experience for me because I was in the Group A," she said. "I was really competitive and that is what I wanted. I also was able to compete with the best Chinese (lifter).
"I beat her in the clean-and-jerk, which was really amazing because the Chinese are always winning."
Weightlifting may be all about the numbers, but for Gerrard, it's her improved mental approach that will make or break her Olympic experience in London.
She admits that she was somewhat overwhelmed by all of the Olympic hoopla in Beijing but having experienced the craziness once before, she will be ready to perform at her best in London.
"My mental preparation is different now and that's for two reasons," she said. "The first thing is that I have been to the Olympics already and know what to expect now. I saw what it was like in Beijing and I'm sure that in London it won't be smaller. The second thing is I am now four years older. I am more involved in my coaching and my progression so I understand things better.
"My mental preparation will definitely be better than it was four years ago. The Olympics are so big that I know I can never get used to it but I will be better prepared than I was four years ago."