Freedom of Spirit is The Key to Living Your Dreams
By Eryn Kirkwood
Photography by George Kontaxis
It has been said that the universe only sends us what we can handle, but when the love of your life dies in your arms at age 44, the assurance falls on deaf ears. And yet, even that wasn’t enough to dampen the dreams of Caterine Dupuis.
Caterine grew up in a strict Montreal household, where God’s word was the last one and open-mindedness was discouraged. Mr. and Mrs. Dupuis were as supportive as they knew how to be, raising a family on the foundation of religion and instilling, early on, the values of discipline, accountability, and moral principles. But as Caterine developed into her own person, she outgrew the limitations of that structure, and her family relations became strained. For her, growing up meant moving out. She had a head full of ambition she wasn’t prepared to surrender, so she moved from Quebec to Ontario, leaving her family behind in the pursuit of a dream.
Dupuis’ enthusiasm for health and wellness developed early on: after high school she received a wellness certification, before certifying as a nutritionist and personal trainer. Before long she was working part-time at a gym. These led her to obtain a degree in Exercise Science, which only scratched the surface of her growing passion.
Caterine was just 22 when she married and moved to Mississauga. She built a life there, garnering two jobs as a trainer, a nine-to-five desk job, and a reliable group of friends. Enjoying success on every level and steadily building a career in professional fitness, just one thing was holding her back: a failing marriage. Caterine finally left her husband–a brave move that ignited her self-confidence and planted the idea that she could “do anything she set her mind to.” With this newfound empowerment, Caterine was prepared to take on whatever came her way. Shortly thereafter, at the urging of a training pal, she entered her first competition—and she took first place in her division. Pleased with her success, Dupuis went on to compete in Division 2, the Laura Binetti Championship, where she placed second to seasoned IFBB professional Emily Zelinka—not bad for an amateur! Her discipline, painstaking efforts, and determination paid off and laid the foundation for burgeoning success in the field.
Around that time, Dupuis met and fell in love with a gentleman and former IFBB professional named Greg Kovacs (known as “Kovacs The Colossus” in bodybuilding circles), and they built a relationship over the following six years. Caterine had never dated a bodybuilder, but she had a lot in common with this “nice guy with an imposing stature, good sense of humour, and great laugh.” In retrospect, Dupuis says it was “love at first sight.” She credits Kovacs for instilling within her the mindset of a professional athlete. She recalls his wisdom, how he taught her that “[a dream] is an everyday thing, that it matters all the time.” She says he taught her to “never feel comfortable with [your] progress, [because] there is always room for improvement.” Above all else, he taught her to never give up on her dreams.
It’s hard to imagine losing a man of such epic proportions. But Greg’s health had been declining for some time, and Caterine had to adjust her priorities: “I had to cater to him. My priorities were Greg and his needs, work, putting food on the table, and paying rent. We had no help. It was just him and I.” Greg reluctantly admitted himself to hospital, where he underwent open heart surgery. He signed himself out just five days later, and Caterine brought him home. In a matter of days, on November 22nd, 2013, Kovacs passed away in Caterine’s arms, as she reluctantly gave up her desperate attempts to perform CPR. He was 44 years old. The loss was devastating.
Caterine tried to keep it together following Greg’s death, informing the family of his passing and dealing with the coroner, meeting police officers for statements, and defending her beloved against lies spread in the media—all the while putting her own mourning process on hold. Not one family member reached out or offered her a hand and, once again, she was left to figure things out on her own. Except this time, it was too much to ask. Caterine slid into a downwards spiral of antidepressant drug use and alcohol abuse. Sadness and grief were constant companions at that time, until one day, about two years later, the crying stopped just long enough for the the sound of Greg’s voice to fill her head, telling her to “stay passionate about what you love.” The fog of depression lifted and a moment of clarity surfaced. Caterine sat down and asked herself, “What the hell am I doing with my life?” “okay,” she said, “enough of this self-pity BS. Get up and find something that makes you happy.” For Dupuis, that meant becoming an IFBB Pro Figure Champ.
It took a solid year to get off the alcohol and meds and get back on track with training. But in 2015, Caterine was competing again and placed 2nd at the Fouad Abiad Classic, 4th at the Ontario Provincials, and 5th at Canadian Nationals. She even stepped onto an international bodybuilding stage at the 2016 Arnold Amateur—and placed 5th in the world. Talk about a comeback!
We asked Caterine, “How did you do it? How do you keep doing it?” She said, “I’ve been through a lot worse in my life than dieting and training hard. I’ve gained so much resilience from surpassing the challenges and adversities that life has thrown my way that I know now, nothing can stop me from succeeding. The unknown does not scare me. Being an outsider doesn’t faze me; it empowers me to keep fighting.”
That moment before you step on stage, when you let go of everything and just smile, knowing that you’ve done everything in your power to be the best you can be that day, knowing that nothing will ever be the same, because you achieved your goal and surpassed who you were at this exact moment last year. This sport pushes me in ways that nothing and no one else in my life can.”
– Caterine Dupuis on competing.