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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