• Briana Tomkinson

Rigaud long-jump champion leaps to the big leagues


PHOTO BY VLAD TARUS

Rigaud resident Jesse Thibodeau shows the long-jump form that’s earned him a gold medal in the Open Long Jump competition at the Espoir Eastern Canadian Championship August 7 in Moncton, New Brunswick.

With three championships under his belt this summer alone, Rigaud long-jumper Jesse Thibodeau is on a hot streak.

Still riding high from his win at the national Junior Canadian Championship in Edmonton and the Quebec Provincial Junior Long Jump Championship in Sherbrooke this past July, Thibodeau won the gold medal for Quebec in the Open Long Jump competition at the Espoir Eastern Canadian Championship August 7 in Moncton.

“It’s been a great summer, the best so far,” said Thibodeau.

Thanks to hard work and support from his mom Susan Corbett and trainer Bogdan Tarus, a three-time Olympian, the 19-year-old is currently ranked first in Canada in the junior level for long jump.

As a boy, Thibodeau played baseball and tennis, but discovered track at 10 years old, and it quickly became his favourite sport.

“My mom got me into track and field,” said Thibodeau, “otherwise I wouldn’t have even heard of track, because there are no track and field clubs where I live.”

His older brother was the first to try track at a club in Ville Saint-Laurent, a 40-minute drive away. “When he was training and competing I liked what he was doing, so my mom also signed me up to join the club.”

Three years ago, Thibodeau decided to specialize in long jump and began training in Montreal at the sports complex Centre Claude-Robillard, where he met Tarus.

“He’s a very experienced athlete himself, having competed in the 1996, 2000 and 2004 Olympics,” said Thibodeau, “He knows what his athletes are experiencing because it is something that he has gone through himself.”

Coach Tarus praised Thibodeau’s diligence and passion for competition.

“To be number one, to be a high level athlete, you should be every time ready to fight, to work, to jump, to compete, and he is like that,” Tarus said. “He can be one of the best Canadian jumpers in about two to three years. If he keeps on this way, he will be one of the best. This is the goal we are working towards.”

For the past two years, Thibodeau has trained with Tarus and a small group of five other dedicated athletes five days a week for up to two hours a day during the track-and-field season.

During the off-season, he enjoys golfing with friends.

“I’m not very good, but it’s fun,” Thibodeau laughed.

Now that this season is done, Thibodeau has more than golfing to look forward to. Last summer, a scout from Princeton University recruited the John Abbot College student for their track team. He officially became a part of Princeton’s National Collegiate Athletic Association track team last October, but this fall will be his first year going through an NCAA competition circuit.

“I’m expecting it to be pretty big, lots of competitions,” said Thibodeau.

Although the level of competition will increase, Thibodeau feels ready, thanks to the preparation and advice he got from coach Tarus.

“He has a ton of experience with those high-level competitions. He has been a big help with the mental side of competing at a high level and managing stress and all that, as well as the technical side.”

Thibodeau won’t declare a major until after his first year at Princeton, but he is interested in pursuing studies in economics or finance.

When he leaves Quebec for New Jersey, Thibodeau expects he will miss the calm and quiet of off-island life, but is looking forward to the adventure.

“I think Princeton will have a similar community experience, but I’m definitely going to miss my friends and my training crew.”

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