At the 2000 Olympic Games
photo courtesy Claus Andersen
At a recent training session for the upcoming GYMROCK competition, Gymn.ca had the opportunity to chat with 2000 Olympian, Julie Beaulieu. Now retired from formal competition, Beaulieu is enjoying her life outside of sport.
In this Gymn.ca exclusive interview, Beaulieu discusses the highlights of her very successful career, her plans for her future, and her reasons for giving up diving, a sport that she had acheived great success in over such a short time.
Personal Facts:Former Club: Gymnix, Montreal, Quebec
Coaches: Claude Pelletier and Francine Bouffard
2000 Olympics 9th Team, 52nd AA (prelim)
2000 Olympic Trials, 2nd AA
1999 World Championships, 10th Team
1999 Pan American Games 1st Team, 2nd UB
1999 Canadian All-Around Champion
1999 and 2000 International Gymnix All-Around Champion
Favourite Event: Uneven Bars
Career Aspirations: working in communications, television commentary
gymn.ca: First of all, what made you decide to compete in GYMROCK?
Julie Beaulieu: I saw that there was this meet on the Gym Alliance website, only about a week before the audition, so I hurried up and made a routine and tried out, and I got picked.
gymn.ca: Had you been back in the gym at all since the Olympics?
JB: I quit gym in October 2000, and I got back in the gym just for the show.
gymn.ca: So you hadn't been back in the gym at all - even for light training?
JB: I was in diving until last May, but I've quit because I've injured my wrist again. It's still injured, so I've had to leave diving. I was also kind of scared of the ten-metre platform!
gymn.ca: But you did make it as far as the national championships this year.
JB: Yes! I made senior nationals after just four months (of training). It was awesome.
gymn.ca: Is there any chance you'll go back to diving?
gymn.ca: So it's time to let the body heal?
JB: Yes, definitely (laughs).
gymn.ca: So what are you doing now?
JB: I'm back in school, at the CEGEP in Quebec, and I'm going to go to private school in communications, which is also in Quebec. I thought about going to UCLA, but I wasn't too sure about going so far away from home for so long.
gymn.ca: I understand you were also thinking about Cirque du Soleil at one point.
JB: Yeah, I'm still thinking about it for next year. The auditions for this year were in June, and I had just quit diving, so I didn't want to get involved in something else. So maybe - MAYBE - next year. I don't know. I'll see in April if I feel like going, and if I do then I'll start training again.
gymn.ca: So you're not training in any sport right now.
JB: No, not at all. Just GYMROCK - I got back in the gym for that.
gymn.ca: How does it feel to be out of sport? Do you miss gymnastics?
JB: (shakes head). No. At one point, when I quit diving, I thought about going back to gymnastics, but I thought I should wait for the summer, because I've never had a free summer with no training, no work. But now that I'm back in the gym for GYMROCK, I realized that maybe I should start a new life.
gymn.ca: So what do you want to do after school?
JB: I want to work in communications. I'm not sure exactly, but I think I'd like to go into commentary.
gymn.ca: Does [CBC and RDS Commentator] Bernard Petiot have to worry about his job?
JB: (laughing) Yes, he should!
Finishing a successful floor routine at the 2000 Olympic Trials
gymn.ca: Let's talk a bit about your career. You've had a bit of time to reflect now that you're out of the sport, and no longer training. What do you think of it all? What are you most proud of?
JB: When you're doing it, you don't realize what you're achieving. The hard times, the good times. It's when you look at it afterwards, then you realize what you've done - it's then that you see that, wow, I've been to the Olympics! I've been chosen, out of hundreds of people in Canada in all sports, and only six in Canada in four years in gymnastics! So that's something I'm proud of. It was normal, well not normal, but I wanted to go to the Olympics, it was always the thing that I wanted to do, but when I look back now I realize that I'm really lucky that I got to go. There are so many gymnasts in Canada, so I'm so lucky to have had that chance. And I'm so lucky I found my coach.
gymn.ca: Tell us a little bit about him.
JB: Claude Pelletier, he's my first coach, and I'm his first gymnast, so we've grown up together. He's like my big brother or my dad - I can tell him anything. Now I'm coaching a little bit - just three hours a week, because I wanted to get back in the gym so that I could see Claude, and see Francine, and all my friends.
gymn.ca: You mean your other coach, Francine Bouffard?
JB: Yes, Francine Bouffard. But she just had her second baby, so she has a little time off.
gymn.ca: Do you see your old Gymnix teammates, Emilie Fournier and Amelie Plante?
JB: Yes, but not much. Since I've been training for GYMROCK I've seen them a little more. Emilie is going to Penn State this winter, and Amelie is going to worlds, so I see them, but not as often as before.
gymn.ca: And were you close to them when you were all competing together?
JB: Yes, we were like sisters. I know it's the classic thing to say, but we really were like sisters. Just by looking at each other we knew what we were thinking.
gymn.ca: Did it ever get tough working together?
JB: Yes, sometimes, at one point, we were starting to get a little sick of each other - picking at each other, stuff like that.
gymn.ca: And it must have been very tough when Emilie suffered her injury at the Olympics?
JB: Oh that was terrible! Because we had been together for a month, always, always, 24/7, for training camps, traveling to New Zealand and then to Australia, and we were always in the same rooms and training together because we were the only ones from Quebec, so when she hurt her ankle and had to leave it was so hard. It was even tough when Emilie had to leave and Crystal [Gilmore, team alternate] had to come be my roommate, because we had been together for so long.
gymn.ca: Because it was not just a teammate, it was a friend.
JB: Yes, exactly. And we were getting along really, really well at the Games, so it was really hard for me. I felt really weird for two or three days - not hungry or anything.
gymn.ca: So you were happy when the competition started.
JB: Yeah. Even though I didn't do very good on floor.
gymn.ca: Do you think that had anything to do with the floor mat?
JB: Yes, everything had to do with the floor mat. Everyone at the Games were having problems. It was totally different from here.
gymn.ca: Was it different from the training gym?
JB: No. Everything in New Zealand and Australia were the same. They were all the same floors and they were totally gross (laughs). It was so hard, and not bouncy at all.
gymn.ca: Do you think that teammate Lise Leveille's fall before you had an effect? Did it change your mindset going into your routine?
JB: No. I had been doing bad floors since we left Gymnix. Well, not in Calgary, but in New Zealand. When you're training like that for three weeks, and you can't do anything, how can you expect to do something good during the competition, on the same floor? And you know that the floor isn't good, so that affects you.
gymn.ca: But your other events went well.
JB: Yeah! I'm kind of sad about my bars, though. The judges were kinda...(trails off). It was one of my best bars!
gymn.ca: How did you feel about the overall team performance?
JB: We did a really good job, even though we had all these problems, like Emilie's injury, and we didn't hear about it, but Michelle [Conway] had an injury, too. She hurt her knee right before the formal training day. That was kind of hard, too. And then Crystal coming in the team. We weren't really used to her - we were used to Emilie in the lineups. Crystal was always the last to go on each event, because she was the alternate, but now she had to get into the team, so that was weird too. But we did really, really well - we did our best.
gymn.ca: Yes, you certainly did. And you all did so well on beam! We'd seen the Canadian team struggle on that event, even as recently as Olympic Trials, and then of course at world championships before that.
JB: We worked really hard on beam, with Carol Angela [Orchard, Olympic Head Coach], so I think we deserved what we got. And of the twelve countries competing, we have the least support, the least money from the government, so I think we did pretty awesome.
gymn.ca: Well, we hope that will change. What kind of funding did you receive personally?
JB: I had a sponsor since I was ten years old. They were very nice to me and helped me a lot.
gymn.ca: Who was that?
JB: L'Aubainerie. They're a clothes company.
gymn.ca: Is that why you're always so well dressed?
JB: (laughing) No, no, no - they never asked anything of me to do for them in seven years. So they've been pretty awesome.
gymn.ca: So looking back again, is there one competition that stands out, that you can look at and say "that was the best of me, that's what I'm most proud of"?
JB: When we won Pan Am's - that's for sure - when we beat the USA girls, that was the best. And especially because it was in Winnipeg - it was home - and everyone was cheering for us.
gymn.ca: And you won the bars silver.
JB: Yes, and Yvonne [Tousek] won the gold, so we were two Canadians in the top three, and again we beat the Americans. Actually we weren't even dreaming of finishing second! We were like, if we have a podium finish we'll be happy! And we won, so we really weren't expecting that.
gymn.ca: So let's go back a little bit farther. You almost quit the sport...
JB: I did quit the sport! For three weeks. And then I called Claude, and he told me, do you want to come back to the gym if you don't have to do beam at all? So I said maybe, maybe, because I missed - I really missed bars. That was my event, and I really missed doing it. So I came back, and didn't do beam, which made the other girls mad, because they had to do beam and I didn't! So it was kind of weird in the gym for a while. But then Andrei [Rodionenko, National Team Coach] told me that if I don't do beam again, I couldn't be on the national team anymore, so I had a meeting with Francine, and we decided that I was to choose my skills from then on. So I did what I wanted to do, and I couldn't say "you made me do this, and I didn't want to, so I don't want to do it". I was choosing the movements. So if I started to work on something, I would have to continue, because I had picked the moves.
gymn.ca: So how long from the time you first went back into the gym until you felt you had a pretty good beam routine?
JB: I had stopped doing beam in June (1997), and started again in December, I think, and I won the Gymnix International on beam in March - three months later. And ironically, I won beam at nationals in Montreal in 2000, so I was beam champion - and that's weird! I didn't win bars, but I won beam!
gymn.ca: So were you expecting to be picked to do all events at the Olympics?(At this point, Julie is called over to meet with the rest of the GYMROCK group).
JB: I worked really, really hard the year before the Games, so I think I did. I had been training so hard, and doing the best that I could, and doing everything that Claude and Andrei had asked of me, so yes, I think I had earned it.
gymn.ca: Well, Julie, thank you very much for your time.
JB: You're welcome very much!
gymn.ca: And best of luck in the future, and at GYMROCK!
JB: Thank you.