What is your first memory of being on the ice?
I was five years old, with a hockey helmet on. I had construction gloves and hockey skates and I tried. It was the first time I felt that rush of racing against other people and it was really, really fun.
What other sports did you do as a kid?
I did swimming before but speed skating is the only sport I have really done competitions in. I did a lot of mountain biking, cycling and playing hockey in the street but nothing in competition.
Did you always want to compete in Short Track?
At the beginning I did it for fun, just to enjoy it with friends but afterwards it became more about competing and wanting to win and then to be at the Olympics.
Every year I was happy to come back – during the summer we have a big rest but I was always looking forward to coming back in the winter. I love the sport.
What do you like doing off the ice?
I have just stopped mountain biking because it is too dangerous for injuries, I still do speed biking and stuff but I am more of a manual guy, I love to work in the woods. When I have time off I go in my big pickup and go to the woods. I love camping and hiking.
Are you building anything in particular at the moment?
One of my friends has some land and we are building a ‘sugar shack’ – it’s a hut where you take the water out of the maple tree and make maple syrup and you can sleep there and stuff. It’s really cool.
Every weekend we can, we work on it.
Until the shack is finished, do you sleep out in tents?
Me and my girlfriend Kasandra (Bradette, part of Canada’s ladies’ 3000m relay ISU 2016 World Championships silver medal-winning team) have a dog, so going hiking with them is cool. We take beef jerky and normally some dehydrated food, make a fire, boil the water and put it in – it’s not bad!
Even your tattoos are of the woods, right?
I love the woods, I love trees! (Girard has a ‘wood’ tattooed all along one arm). I have plans to do a lot more for sure but I don’t have time right now.
How long have you and Kasandra been together?
We have been together for four years. We met skating in Montreal. She lived about an hour away from my old town and we met in Montreal. She was in the team and I joined it.
Do you manage to avoid talking Short Track when you are together?
After a big season it is easy to cut if off and not talk about it. But we are always excited to come back and see the team. We are like a small family.
What is your favourite food?
Shepherd’s pie – potato, corn and meat in three different layers. It’s Canadian food, it’s really good.
Also, Kasandra cooks a lot of dessert, cake, pastry, all this stuff. I really love it. I don’t have to be too careful either, it goes down fast. I’ve got a good metabolism.
And favourite book and movie?
I am not a movie guy. I like to read to learn, you know, like what mushrooms you can eat in the wood or something like that. I want to learn if I am reading.
Where is your favourite holiday destination?
I really love my place in Quebec but if I have to choose somewhere else then Mexico, Cozumel. It is a really cool place. I love to go diving and it’s really good for that. After the season when you want sun and to rest we go there.
I have dived a lot there with turtles, sharks and done night dives. It’s really, really cool.
Last year we went for two weeks, Kasandra loves it too. There are big beaches with maybe five or six people on the whole beach.
And where is your favourite place to compete?
Competing for sure it is in Dordrecht or Rotterdam. The World Championships (2017, Rotterdam) were amazing. The crowd, the lights, the music – it is really a show. It is really fun for us, we feel like we are the stars and it makes me skate well. I love it.
You seem to really enjoy engaging with the younger fans and taking time to sign autographs and chat with them, is that right?
It’s pretty cool. I was the same as them, asking for autographs and I remember the feeling when the guys would come and sign the autograph and I would be like, ‘Oh this guy is so nice’. So, I want to be that guy and make sure I do that stuff.
What has been your favourite moment on the ice?
I have had some great moments. I think my best was in (the Republic of) Korea with Charles (Hamelin, his Canadian teammate) when we finished gold-silver in the 1000m (2016 ISU World Championships in Seoul). To have the flags and the Canadian national anthem playing, that was the best.
And aside from the competition, what do you love about being an elite Short Track skater?
Travelling and living with the team. All the vibes of Short Track, travelling round the world and seeing all the cities and the people.
And bad injuries?
Not really, touch wood. I had a big cut on my shin but that was from the gym. I was on the vault box and I slipped and cut my shin.
If it is not a stupid question, what’s your biggest ambition on the ice?
For sure it is an Olympic medal. That is my goal. The relay is the only team event and to get a medal at the Olympics with this team would be really, really amazing.
And off the ice, what’s the burning ambition?
I don’t have a big plan but I do want to buy some land and build my own house with Kasandra. But we are living in Montreal and the woods are five hours by car away and that is where I want to live, so we have to plan it all.
I can see myself living in the woods in my house with a pair of skates, maybe coaching in the winter. That would be nice.