When Laura Leclair started skiing at five years old, her main motivator was “the hot chocolate break.” Today, the 25-year-old Chelsea native is after a much sweeter reward, gold in Beijing.
Apt613 connected with the cross-country skier, now training out of Quebec City, for a written interview preceding the 2022 Winter Olympics. In the interview, Leclair discusses the pandemic’s impact on competition, shows appreciation for her supporters, and the pride in representing “[her] hometown region.”
Responses have been edited for clarity and length.
Pandemic-era competition presented challenges for the first-time Olympian. “[It is] definitely a lot more stress, logistics, and planning,” says Leclair. “All Canadian races were cancelled in 2021, but I was able to race on the World Cup circuit. As a cross-country skiing athlete, I was lucky enough to always be able to train individually and outdoors.”
View this post on Instagram
Her training paid off, bringing her into ninth place at the 2021 World Championships in the 4x5km relay, alongside Katherine Stewart-Jones — a fellow Chelsea native debuting in Beijing — as well as Dahria Beatty and Cendrine Browne.
Leclair and Browne are not just teammates on the course. Last year, the pair started Féminaction, a program encouraging women to start and stay involved in sport as athletes, coordinators, or coaches, particularly in cross-country skiing.
View this post on Instagram
The community support for Leclair is reciprocated. “We get a lot of love, encouragement, feedback, and support from the Ottawa-Gatineau region,” says Leclair. “Thanks to Excellence Sport Outaouais, my hometown club Chelsea Nordiq, head coach Maurice “Moe“ Samm, and, of course, my friends and family for whom it gives me great pleasure to ski. I would also like to thank my sponsors from the region who have been with me since I began my Olympic journey four years ago: Exo Construction, Quartier Meredith, Samson & Associates, and Les Lafleur Optométriste Opticien.”
“I am so happy to be representing my hometown region at these Games,” says Leclair, “especially Gatineau Park, where I learned how to ski.”
Leclair fulfills her Olympic dream in Sprint Freestyle on February 8 at 3am EST. She says first-time viewers of cross country skiing can expect “a lot of action and tactics” in the individual and team sprint events.
Follow Leclair in her Olympic debut on Instagram. Keep an eye out for all of the Beijing-bound athletes representing Ottawa-Gatineau, including:
Mirela Rahneva (skeleton)
Valérie Grenier (alpine skiing)
Cody Sorensen and Mike Evelyn (bobsleigh)
Hannah Schmidt and Jared Schmidt (freestyle skiing)
Ivanie Blondin and Isabelle Weidemann (speed skating)
Lisa Weagle, Dawn McEwen, Rachel Homan, and John Morris (curling)
Mason McTavish, Eric O’Dell, and Jamie Lee Rattray (hockey)
Antoine Cyr, Katherine Stewart-Jones, and Laura Leclair (cross-country skiing)