A special torch, hand-carved from B.C. Pine, was unveiled Wednesday during a press conference at Trinity Western University to launch the Royal Canadian Legion track and field championships. It was unveiled by Karen Crashley (left) of Powell River, the provincial president of the B.C. Legion Women's Auxiliary and Lesley Maudsley of White Rock. The championships run Aug. 9 to 11 at McLeod Park.

Legion championships were ‘turning point’ in athlete’s life

Torch bearer Marie-Josee Le Jour discovered her passion for track and field at the Royal Canadian Legion championships

The Royal Canadian Legion track and field championships were a turning point in Marie-Josee Le Jour’s life.

“Thanks to the Legion, I found a passion for track and field,” she explained.

“Through this passion, I travelled the world, I met amazing people, and I had incredible experiences.”

The sport allowed Le Jour to earn an athletic scholarship in the NCAA with the University of Arkansas, which allowed her to get a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees.

“Most importantly though, I learned the value of hard work, dedication, perseverance and commitment,” she said.

The Legion championships will be held at Langley’s McLeod Park in both 2013 and 2014.

The 2013 championships get underway on Friday (Aug. 9) and run until Aug. 11.

During the opening ceremonies on that first night, Le Jour will be the torch bearer.

In 1993, a coach back home in Quebec sent her a pamphlet about the Legion championships. And all though Le Jour was more into soccer, gymnastics and badminton, she gave track and field a shot.

It was a good decision.

Le Jour made the Quebec provincial team for the Legion championships — which are for the country’s top youth (ages 14 to 17) athletes — in 1994, 1995 and 1996.

She twice won the gold medal in the discus in that three-year span.

“If it hadn’t been for the opportunities given to me by the Legion, I am convinced my life would have turned out very differently,” she said.

“Athletics has played a crucial role in all aspects of my life; I am very grateful to the Legion for giving me my first taste of national competition and for giving the same opportunities to some of the athletes I coach, almost 20 years later.”

Le Jour, who coaches with both the University of Toronto Varsity Blues and the University of Toronto Track Club, is also still active competitively and will represent Canada at the Jeux de la Francophonie in France this September.

The 34-year-old won the Canadian senior national title in the discus in 2002, 2005, 2006 and 2009 and is a 14-time national medalist in the discus and shot put from 2000 to 2013.

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