With the Winter Games in full swing, most eyes are on the athletes competing for gold, silver, and bronze in Pyeongchang, South Korea. However, Jacqueline Legere, arguably Canada’s greatest female competitor in one of the craziest sports of all time — ice cross downhill racing, or as Red Bull calls it, “Crashed Ice” — will be schussing at the other end of the globe to claim another world championship.
If you haven’t heard of Red Bull Crashed Ice before, it’s quite self-explanatory. Leave it to energy drink giants Red Bull to come up with the most extreme ice skating concept imaginable. Hurtling down a winding ice track at speeds of up to 80 km/h — all while going off jumps and mastering hairpin turns and trying to avoid getting tripped up and pushed over by other skaters — makes for one of the most entertaining winter sports not in the Olympics.
Of all places, it’s smack in the middle of an adrenaline rush that Jacqueline Legere — who also moonlights as a professional film and television stuntwoman — is in her element. Coming off her first two races in St. Paul, Minnesota and Jyväskylä, Finland, the 26-year-old Brantford, Ontario native is raring to retain her title as female Red Bull Crashed Ice world champion for a record third time.
How did you first hear about Crashed Ice?
I believe it was just a YouTube ad that said you could register online and that they do a lottery pick to allow a certain amount of people to go to the qualifier. So I signed up for that, not expecting to get chosen in the qualifiers, which is on flat ice, and I did get chosen and then I went and tried out and I actually didn’t qualify on that one! But I learned that you could just be a walk-up person, where you could just walk up and register that night if there was space, so I went to a different qualifier. That’s where I qualified.
Now you’re one of the best!
Yeah. Well, I’ve been doing it for a while, but it’s been fun. This will be my seventh year.
And for the past two years you’ve won the female world championships.
Yes. Those were the first years that women got to go on tour and have a women’s world championship, and before that we just did the Canadian races, and then the Canadian and US races.
How do you train for the Crashed Ice tournaments? I wouldn’t really know where to start.
Well there’s no real tracks to train on, which is unfortunate, but we make do. We go to Joyride 150, it’s an indoor bike park [located in Markham, Ontario] and they let us rollerblade there when it’s closed. A bunch of us usually go there once a week and we do inline skating on the jumps and the pump tracks, and then I also go skating at a place in Burlington called The Skating Lab, and that place is pretty cool because the coach there watches our technique — you can change the incline of the machine, and practice skating uphill, and stuff like that, and then we basically just do sprints and work on technique. And I also play hockey still, so I count that as training, and other than that, I just do workouts in my basement and stuff like that.
Do you train with people that you compete against or could potentially compete against?
So I guess there’s a friendlier community in Crashed Ice?
Yeah, it’s definitely a very friendly community, even when we’re training on the track, we all kind of discuss like, “What did you do here?” and kind of figure it out, because you have such little time, and then when it comes down to races, you’re obviously really focused on yourself and you want to win. So, it’s really friendly but when it’s competition time, it’s competition time.
Right now, there’s a big battle between me and the American Amanda Trunzo. Last year, in the final race I had to come first to beat her because we were really close in points. She beat me in St. Paul, so that’s the battle this year again I think.
Only in the past two years have they introduced the female world championships. What does that mean to you and all the other female racers who now get to travel around the world, just the same as the guys, and get to do the sport that you love to do in places like Finland and France?
I think it’s a great opportunity, and it’s been really cool to see the sport grow, because when we were doing just the Canadian races, it was just one weekend a year, basically. So you don’t want to spend months and months training just for like, two days, and not have any other time on the track. So having something to really work towards is really awesome, and also just the experience on the track helps a lot with the girls’ skill level. It has gone up so much in the last two years. It’s really spectacular to see.
You were always active growing up too, right? What did you get up to when you were younger?
Yup. I mainly played hockey and soccer growing up, and then I got into snowboarding in high school and then I did other sports in high school like gymnastics and volleyball and a bit of basketball, and then as I got older I kind of got into dirt biking, downhill biking, cross country biking, and I got into rollerblading after my first year of Crashed Ice to train. I’ve also gotten into skydiving. A bunch of different sports, really.
All of these sound like the most extreme sports you could choose to do! You also do stunt work for film and television outside of Crashed Ice. Is that just to foot the bills?
It’s not super consistent work, so you have to kind of be careful with it, but I work as much as I can and I also travel and do all my sports. I do have sponsors that help me out with the season because I can’t really work during the season that much. It’s really lucky if the timing works out, so that’s kind of my career and Crashed Ice is for fun.
What have been some of your favourite projects you’ve worked on in the film industry?
I worked on Molly’s Game, which is actually out in theatres right now.
I just saw it! What did you do in it?
I did the ski stunt in that, which I actually haven’t seen yet. I went to go see the movie and I was late and missed it.
Was that you who did the flip where you land poorly on your back?
That was an intense scene in the movie. You really should’ve been there for it.
Yeah I know! [Laughs.]That was actually mid-Crashed Ice season last year, so that one worked out really well for timing. I’ve also worked on The Strain, which is like a vampire show, Twelve Monkeys, Suicide Squad, Degrassi, Arrow, and some other stuff as well.
Did you work on IT?
Yeah. I did a bit of training for the kids on bicycles, so I did a bit of behind the scenes stuff.
Doing extreme sports and stunt work for movies as a career — sounds like pretty much every kid’s dream. Have you ever had thoughts about doing something like an office job, or have you always so stuff that keeps you this active?
I’ve always wanted to do it. When I was younger, I thought it was impossible to get into the movies, just because it seems so far fetched, especially out here in a small town. But it’s always been in the back of my mind. I went to school for police foundations, mainly because it had gym class. I didn’t know what I actually really wanted to do, so I went to school for that. It was fun, but I definitely don’t think I’d want to do that. I’m just happy that I’m now in the stunt industry and I want to keep pursuing it.
Your final race this season is in Edmonton, Canada. Are you feeling confident in bringing home a third consecutive world championship?
Yes, definitely. I mean I obviously wanted to win the first race, and it’s going to be a battle like it was last year, but I definitely think I have it in me. So I’ll be trying for that.
I guess you’re almost expected to win after the last two. Is that a heavy crown to wear?
It can be, but I don’t really let it. I just try to keep in mind that no matter what happens, I’m doing this for fun, and I will try my best. And if my best isn’t good enough, then that’s okay. But I’m going for number one and I’ve been training hard, so I think it’s possible.
What is the feeling like when you’re standing up at the gate before you take off?
It’s pretty tunnel-visioned, you’re really in the moment. It’s really nice when you first get up there and you’re waiting for the previous heat to be done, because you can take it all in, and then once you get up to the gate, it’s complete focus. And you’re just waiting to hear the beep go.
You’ve said the sport’s pretty big now, how big do you want to see it get? And on a slightly more narcissistic note, how big do you want to see yourself get?
Well, for me, I think I’ve already kind of made it big. I would never have expected this to happen — to be a world champion or back-to-back world champion, but there is talk of it in the Olympics and I think that would be really cool to see. It’s a good spectator sport and it’s good challenge, so it would be cool to see it go to the Olympics.