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"What drives me most is the passion I have for the sport. That's why I do it."
(Myriam Bédard, Guinness Book of Sports Records, 1997)
From her first biathlon as a young Army cadet on borrowed skis and oversized boots, Myriam Bédard has set her sights on winning. Determined, competitive and absolutely dedicated to her sport, Ms. Bédard's passion has brought her international fame and Olympic gold.
A native of Ancienne-Lorette, Quebec, Ms. Bédard joined the Army cadets in 1983, when she was 14 years old. Highly motivated even at this early age, Cadet Bédard excelled in training and proceeded to win a number of awards, culminating in the Army Cadet League of Canada's Centennial Award as Top Female Cadet. By 1986, Ms. Bédard had completed all levels of the Duke of Edinburgh's Young Canadians Challenge, and received its prestigious gold level award.
When, as a 15-year-old Army cadet, Ms. Bédard was asked to compete as part of a relay team in a local biathlon meet, she didn't hesitate. Though she had never trained for the sport, she agreed, borrowing skis and wadding up tissue to stuff into the toes of too-large boots. Even though the team didn't win the meet, Myriam had discovered her passion. Throughout her cadet career, Ms. Bédard continued to train and compete in biathlon events. She won the Canadian Junior Biathlon Championship in 1987, and was the first Canadian athlete to win a World Cup biathlon event in 1991.
The 1992 Winter Games at Albertville, France marked the first time in the history of the Olympics that the biathlon was open to women. Ms. Bédard headed a strong Canadian women's team, and won a bronze medal in the 15-kilometre race, becoming the first North American athlete ever to win an Olympic medal in a biathlon event. In 1993, she won her first World Championship. Her success continued in the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. Winning gold in both the 7.5- and 15-kilometre events, Ms. Bédard became the first Canadian woman ever to win two Olympic gold medals, as well as the first North American athlete ever to win gold in Olympic biathlon events.
Following the 1994 Olympics, Myriam took a break from her rigorous training to focus on a new priority. She and husband, Jean Paquet, fellow biathlete and member of the Canadian men's team, welcomed the arrival of their daughter, Maude, born in December 1994. Although she returned to international competition in 1995, health problems affected her performance. Fighting newly diagnosed hypothyroidism, Ms. Bédard did compete in the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, but failed to win a medal. Shortly thereafter, Ms. Bédard retired from competitive biathlon, and turned her attention to a second career as co-host of Radio-Canada's popular television series, Parents d'aujourd'hui. She was inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame on November 4, 1998.
Her passion for excellence in sport has not diminished since her retirement from the biathlon. Indeed, Ms. Bédard has begun a new chapter in her athletic career: she recently began training with a Quebec speed-skating club. A superb athlete, she hopes to make the national speed-skating team in time for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.
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