Three back-to-back silver medals in the Americas Cup Triathlon series has put Emy Legault of Quebec right where she wants to be: in contention. “It’s a milestone for me to be racing against Kristen Kasper and Rachel Klammer and actually be in the game,” Legault says of her podium in Sarasota earlier this year. “Even a year ago, I would’ve been right off the back.” From questioning her place in the sport to three podiums in a row, 2022 is proving to be a breakthrough for Legault.
Legault has been in triathlon since she was a child, successfully racing her way up the ranks with a dream to represent Canada at the Olympics. “When I was fourteen or fifteen it became a dream to go to the Olympics, but only when I was eighteen it became a goal—when it was more realistic,” Legault says. When she was nineteen, Legault earned a spot on the national team for the first time, but after a crash at world championships and a lackluster year after that, Legault lost her place on the team. Bravely, she then accepted an invitation to move to Hong Kong, following her coach, and train with the national team there as a professional training partner. “It really helped me develop as an athlete and a person. I had never been to Asia before. It was a totally different culture, but I loved seeing the city, living with the team, training with them, and seeing more of Asia,” Legault says. “But it was hard sometimes because I was far away from home, and I couldn’t just go back home when I wanted to.”
When the pandemic hit, Legault was in Australia for a race, so she was forced to go directly back to Canada. Without returning to Hong Kong first, she didn’t have a chance to say goodbye to her teammates, let alone collect her things. She was also left without a contract and without a coach. “I cried a lot at the beginning,” Legault admits. “I didn’t have a coach for two weeks. I didn’t know what was going on or what I was going to do. I didn’t know if I wanted to keep going with triathlon. There comes a point when you haven’t improved in years, you just don’t know what to do any more,” she explains.
Out of the harsh transition, however, Legault realized she needed to be at home in Canada if she wanted to keep going. She started to train with her local triathlon club again and run with her sister on the weekends. “I loved my experience in Hong Kong, but I didn’t realize how much being home makes a difference for me. I’m still not always home because I have to go to training camps, but I know within a few months I’ll be home again,” Legault says. “My family is a big part of it. My parents are a big part of me staying mentally healthy and my sister is my best friend.”
Legault also reconnected with her original coach, Kyla Rollinson, and during the pandemic “there were major changes” to her running. “Running has always been the part that messes up my race. The swim and bike would go well and then everyone would go by me,” Legault says. At an altitude training camp in Ecuador in December, 2021, Legault’s running finally showed real racing promise. With two races in Chile, Legault set her sights on Brazil’s Luisa Baptista to test her new run form. “I asked my coach: ‘do you think she is beatable?’ And she said yes. That was it.”
In Viña del Mar, Legault put herself on the heels of Baptista: “I felt like we were going so fast. I felt like we were sprinting. But I thought, I’ll just see if I can do one kilometer.” Mentally taking the run in small pieces, Legault stayed with Baptista stride for stride. It came down to a sprint finish and, although Baptista claimed the win, finishing second and being in contention for the win was a milestone for Legault.
Only a week later, the two would meet again in Villarrica. Out of T2 with a lead, Legault set a hard pace, expecting Baptista to catch her quickly. “In the first race, she would never let me pass. If I came onto her shoulder she would accelerate. So, in the second race, I was just ready to follow her. But it took three kilometers for her to catch me. I was confused at the beginning when she sat on my shoulder. I wasn’t expecting to lead it,” Legault says. The two passed one another back and fourth during the ten kilometers, but eventually Baptista would out-sprint Legault again.
Legault would find herself in a third sprint finish a few weeks later in Sarasota, this time finishing second to Kristen Kasper with Rachel Klammer rounding out the podium.“My coach said we’re getting a sprint coach to work on my finish,” she says with a smile.
After three podiums in a row, Legault set off to the World Triathlon Championship Series race in Yokohama, where she finished 21st. From here on in she embarks on a two-year campaign for Olympic qualification. Her next race is in Huatulco, Mexico on June 18. This year she also has her sights set on the Commonwealth Games and finishing her university studies. While she credits her running improvement as the key to her breakthrough, she says it wasn’t just about the physical changes. “One of the biggest things—and it’s something I can’t ignore—is that we’ve realized for me being home is happy and a happy athlete is a fast athlete.”
Emy Legault’s Gear:
Wetsuit: BlueSeventy Helix
Goggles: Vorgee Missile
Trisuit: Canadian National Team (2XU)
Bike: Specialized Tarmac SL7
Components: Shimano Ultegra Di2
Bike Shoes: Specialized Sworks 7 Vent
Wheels: Roval CL50
Running Shoes: Brooks Ghost, Asics Speed
Sunglasses: Oakley Radar / Sutro / Kato
Tech: Garmin Forerunner 945 – Garmin Edge 520
Nutrition: Näak, Brix
This story originally appeared in the May, 2022 issue of Triathlon Magazine Canada.