Getting To Know...Marilou Dozois-Prévost, Olympic Weightlifter (Part 1)

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Getting To Know...Marilou Dozois-Prévost, Olympic Weightlifter (Part 1)

For many of us who watched the Beijing Olympics of 2008, we were in awe by the many record-breaking feats, the triumphs, the heartaches, and countless stories of the athletes, teams, coaches, and personnel who were a part of one of the most exhilarating Games of all time.

Among one of the stories from last year's Olympics was 23-year-old Marilou Dozois-Prévost, who hails from Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Making her Olympic debut in the 48 kg (for my American neighbors, that's 101.41 lbs) women's weightlifting event, Prévost placed among the top 10 amongst her competitors.

Prévost is no stranger to success, having won the bronze medal in the 2006 Commonwealth Games held in Melbourne, Australia, one of the athletes aiding Canada's efforts to a third-place finish in the medals race.

She may not be a household name in the sporting world yet, but Prévost is certainly an athlete that you may want to keep your eye on in the future.

As you'll see in the interview, she's as conscious and detailed about her sporting career as she is precise and informative in this interview piece.

Through email correspondence, I decided to give my rendition of a 48-kg weightlifting event with the "Tiongson 12-Test", a series of questions aimed to reveal some new insights and details to my interviewees.

All I can say is that Prévost aced the test, no doubt, a mark of her being a truly stout and focused athlete and individual.

She was an absolute delight to interview and it has given me even more respect for her and what she does as a competitor in her sport.

This will be the first of two parts, with the first half of the interview looking into her preparation into her sport as well as some of her reflections of last year's games in Beijing.

Part two will focus on her future in weightlifting as well as some of the more personal look into this sensational athlete.

I hope you'll enjoy getting to know Marilou Dozois-Prévost as much as I did! She is a treat to talk to and hopefully, she'll be a force to be reckoned with in weightlifting and in the sporting world's future.

Rob Tiongson: Starting off that bat, I'm curious...how'd you get into weightlifting?

Marilou Dozois-Prévost: I started lifting totally by pure coincidence. I was bored at school during lunch time and one of my friends at the time dragged me in the lifting room and said it would be fun.

Her friend actually had a crush on a guy there, but we still attempted to lift weight (we had to pretend we were not there for the guy in question).

It was fun and I came back everyday of the rest of the week. The coach there noticed me and started to give me more attention. I had also started to train for real.

I was not just hanging out with my new friends I had made there. There was something attracting for me in weightlifting. Here I thought it was a strength sport, but every time the coach was giving me advice, it was concerning my technique.

I learned to be faster, to have a better balance, to gain flexibility, to be more fluid, and that was it for me. After my first small competition (a month only after starting lifting), I really fell in love with the sport.

Not only was there the training part that I loved, the hard training, the discipline, and the technique, but there was also the thrill of competing, the adrenaline: this sport was made for me.

After two months of training, my coach at the time told me that if I trained hard enough during two years, I had the talent to go to the World Junior Championship in 2002.

We were in the beginning of year 2000 at the time. I trained so hard to make it there, everyday of the week and nine times a week during the summer, when school was off. I finally made it a year earlier than what he expected, in 2001.

After that, I knew I was in this sport to stay. I made really good friends there in my first year, but eventually, they all left the sport. I loved weightlifting too much to let anything stop me from doing it. And I still do.

RT: Now, I read from various online sports outlets, including your hometown "ESPN" in CBC Sports, that you took up gymnastics prior to weightlifting.

That had to be quite a transition to go from a sport where you're literally on the edge every minute to an another sport where you are pushing yourself to the limits with strength and agility. Or was the change from gymnastics to weightlifting a bit gradual than that?
 
MD-P: Hm...I don't know about that gymnastic rumour! I've often been asked if I had been practicing any sport prior to weightlifting and I always said no, beside two years of circus (on an irregular basis).

I did try gymnastic, but I was seven years old and I quit after barely a month of training because I did not like it (I regret it a little now, because I think it's an amazing sport).

So the transition was more from not practicing any sport to training everyday, which was fine, because I wanted to train so much. If I would've been allowed to sleep at the gym, I would probably have lived there!

I have to say, though, that I know many great weightlifters that are ex-gymnasts. The reason is simple: by 12 years old, if you are not an excellent gymnast, you know you probably won't make it to the Olympics.

It just happens that 12 is a great age to start weightlifting and both sports require pretty much the same abilities, such as balance, flexibility, power, agility and a lot of discipline.

I remember watching Tara Nott winning the gold at the 2000 Olympic Games. She had only been training for a few years in weightlifting.

How was she able to do that? Well, I don't know, but I bet her gymnastic background had a little something to do with this great achievement.

RT: Is there a particular routine you do with regards to training for an event? How about during an off-time when an event is not scheduled for a while?
MD-P: Training for an event takes a lot of time. What I usually do is try to peak only at two competitions during a year.
I might attend to more than two, but I won't be in my best physical shape (although it's sometime surprising how well we can perform when we don't expect it).
It takes about six months to prepare for a competition and get there in a better shape than the previous one. If I take less time, I might be able to repeat my best performances, but I probably won't exceed it.
Basically, during this six-month period, I will go through various phases of training in order to accomplish different goals.
Our sport requires speed, strength, and technique. We can't focus on everything at the same time, so I start by building general strength.
Then, I will focus on specific strength needed to perform the competition lift. In the next phase, I will start to focus on speed and power while maintaining strength.
Finally, I practice my technique and timing of the competition lifts. Three to four weeks later, I am ready to step on the competition platform and lift big weights!
RT: Back home for you in Canada, you must've had a tremendous following watching your every move during last year's games in Beijing. How did it feel to represent your country during the Olympics?
MD-P: Oh, I was very proud. During the Games, we all wear our country's outfit and it's great to feel that you can belong to a team.
Especially with the fact that my sport is an individual sport, it is not often that I get the chance to feel like I am part of a team.
In Beijing, we would take the time to know everyone we met that would wear the Canadian outfit and it was great.
I also received very nice comments and feedback from people all over Canada telling me how great I did and how well I represented the country.
I was not expecting that at all, because I felt like I should thank them for letting me represent our country!
RT: As I watched your performance in the games, I was just left in awe at how you were able to do something which I know I could not possibly do, even if I was given all the training and practice in the world.
Just how close is that margin between the haves and have-nots in your sport?
MD-P: I would really like to say that, with proper training, anyone can reach a decent level. And I really used to think that. But it's not true.
Many skills that are required to be a good weightlifter have to be developed at a young age. And some things just can't be learned, they are purely genetic. Speed, power and balance cannot improve much after 12 years old.
As for developing straight, even with proper nutrition there is a lot of individual difference that can't be ignored. There is a huge difference between the amount of weight that can be lifted by a great athlete and a regular one.
Most guys in the 85 kilograms weight class, for example, will never be able to lift 180 kilos at the clean and jerk.
Very good athletes only will reach this level. But the world record in this weight class is 218 kilos. It shows that even between good and great athletes the margin is huge.
RT: Now for those who may not know much about you or your sport...what's one interesting aspect of your weightlifting?
MD-P: As crazy as it might sound, I don't have any biceps. And I don't do much at bench press. I say that because I am always asked to show my big arms or how much I can bench press when someone hears that I lift weight.
So I always have to explain that the part of our body that we use to lift the weight are mainly our legs and back. Our upper body strictly has a stabilization purpose, it doesn't lift the weight.
Also, good weightlifters can jump really high and run really fast (only for sprints, though, not for long distances). It's because our body is trained to be powerful.
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