Marie-Josée Le Jour cracks 4K barrier for throws pent WR

Photo of MJ by Bill Pearson.

One of the oldest throws pentathlon records on the books fell Saturday when W35 Marie-Josée Le Jour scored 4,047 points at the Toronto Track & Field Centre. She topped the listed WR of 3,730 by Christi McCahill of New Zealand set in Brisbane in 2001. News of the milestone was reported by Ontario Masters Athletics. The site reports: “Her series was hammer – 48.97 (160-8), shot – 12.38 (40-7 1/2), discus – 46.09 (151-2), javelin – 30.29 (99-4) and weight – 16.56 (54-4). She also set a Canadian Record in the weight throw of 16.77 (55-0 1/4).” Full results are here. She has American links as well, having competed for Arkansas (where she earned a bachelor’s and two master’s degrees).

Here’s how she described her track career:

My name is Marie-Josée, but most people who cannot pronounce my name call me MJ and I’m cool with it. I was born in Dorval, but grew up in Pierrefonds, Québec. I was first introduced to track and field by my father who would drag my little sister Caroline and I to road races. Caro and I, matching outfits and all, ran the “fun run”, a one-mile run that we didn’t think was that much fun…

It was years later that I was reacquainted with track and field. This time it was at Collège Sainte-Anne de Lachine where I attended high school. My high school did not have a track team, but every year we held try-outs to pick a team that would represent the school at the regional track meet. The first year, I qualified for the 1200-meter and 2000-meter races. Since nobody showed up for the discus try-out, my P.E. teacher put me in the event to fill a spot. I had never thrown discus before so I felt like a total tourist when I showed up to the event. However, I got the hang of it quickly and won a bronze medal with a throw of just over 22 meters. It was a nice way to end a day that had not started so well, finishing dead last in both of my races.

Needless to say, the following year I smartened up and tried out for discus again and added the shot put to my events. I did well enough – winning the discus and placing second in the shot – to attract the attention of Jacques Chapdelaine, a coach with the St-Laurent Sélect Track and Field Club. He invited me to join his club, but I was already competitive in soccer and badminton at the time, so I hesitated. Jacques told me that I had the potential to make the Lac St-Louis team for the Jeux du Québec. Since this competition was being held in Gaspé that year and that I had never been there before, I figured I’d try. I made the team, went to Gaspé, and finished 7th in the discus. I never liked losing so I was very disappointed. One thing that I will always remember though is that Jacques came to see me after discus and told me not to worry because I was going to win nationals the following year. I thought to myself “this guy is nuts! I just placed 7th in the province and now he’s telling me I’m going to be first in the nation by next year? Whatever!” I have always been on the realistic side…

That fall, I went back to competitive badminton. In early January, I received an envelope in the mail with a brochure about the Youth Canadian Championships and a letter from Jacques explaining the qualification process. Once again, I figured I’d give it a try. The guy was being persistent. The year was 1994 and it will remain in my memory forever. Apparently that Jacques guy wasn’t so nuts… I did end up winning the national title in the youth 15 and under category with a 4-meter personal best in the third round. I had so much fun that summer travelling and meeting athletes from all over the country (including my long-time best friend Dominique Bilodeau). It didn’t take long before I got seriously hooked!

As they say, the rest is history… So now you know how someone gets into one of the most ancient sport, the discus throw. I get that question a lot… The funny thing is that had my high school teachers been just a little bit more entertaining, I would not have been so keen on trying out for the regional track meet. I guess I forgot to mention earlier that the only reason I went to the try-outs was because whoever qualified got to miss a day of school… The regional meet was being held on a Friday! : )

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May 19, 2014

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