Jacqueline Legere doesn't remember where she first watched a downhill ice cross racing event. It was in 2011, that she knows. It was on television. No, it was probably YouTube. The exact details are unclear, but what is certain is that Legere, who turned 26 last October, went for a tryout soon after, had her first race in Quebec City, and has since won two world titles competing in the official ice cross downhill world championship known as Red Bull Crashed Ice.
Growing up in St. George, Ontario, Legere's parents pushed her toward different sports. She fell in love with hockey and soccer right away, and still plays today. Along the way, Legere's curiosity led her to try a multitude of sports, including skiing, motocross, wakeboarding, longboarding, skydiving, rollerblading, and mountain biking. "I just love variety and trying out new things," Legere told VICE Sports. There are other sports on her radar that she plans to try, too, like kiteboarding and ski cross.
This type of curiosity made her the perfect athlete for Red Bull Crashed Ice, which has been sponsoring ice cross downhill racing events since 2001. You only need to watch one race to understand why it's such a thrilling experience for both the viewers and the participants.
On tracks made out of steel scaffolding topped with wood, four skaters race down obstacle courses while going at up to 80km per hour, dealing with uphill and downhill slopes, turns, drops, and gaps. It is like if you build a Mario Kart course on ice, and had humans race to see whether they can finish the course in the fastest time without crashing.
The type of athlete best suited to compete in these events has experiences in speed skating, skiing, snowboarding, and other winter and water sports. Given Legere's athletic background, it's no surprise she's thrived.
After her first season, Legere devised a plan to train and get better. Because there is no specific blueprint to preparing for a sport that is so unique, many of the athletes who participate have a do-it-yourself approach to improving themselves. Legere rented out ice rinks where she would set up obstacles to replicate the race environment. She spent time at ski training parks and skate parks. After her initial experience with ice cross downhill racing, Legere realized she needed to strengthen herself to be better at making the transition between skating uphill and downhill over the course of a race. So she found a skating treadmill in Burlington, Ontario.
"You can use a lot of different sports and training tools from them that cross over," Legere said. Today, there are around 400 male and female athletes who take part in Red Bull Crashed Ice. The sport has grown in the last five years, with a women's world championship introduced in 2015.
The championship is determined by a nine-race world tour across six different countries: Austria, France, Finland, Russia, the United States, and Canada. A points system, awarding 1,000 points to the winner and descending from there with points going all the way down to the 125th-place finisher, is accumulated throughout the season to determine the champion. Legere has won the last two years.
"I've definitely been training really hard," she said, "and I think it shows appropriately."
While remembering exactly when and where she discovered ice cross downhill racing is difficult, Legere has no such problems describing why she's so passionate about it. "It's the thrill of it," she said. "You could hit a rut and fall [at any time], so the whole time you're just really focused on staying on your feet, skating hard, and not making any mistakes. It's important to have a clean run."
Legere, in her sixth season, still plays other sports throughout the year, so fitness is never a concern for her. Even though she's one of the most successful and recognizable athletes in her sport, participating in the extreme sport is something Legere does for fun—ice cross downhill racing is a recreational sport that doesn't support a full-time living.
When she's not chasing the thrills of ice cross downhill racing, Legere works as a professional stuntwoman for TV shows and films that are shot in Canada. Even her day job is one full of adventures, as she recalls one particular stunt for Reign, a television show on The CW. "I did a really high cliff dive into the water in an old period dress," Legere said. "That was pretty cool. It was a really big dress." She also performed stunts recently on movies like Suicide Squad and Molly’s Game.
But Legere has bigger goals and dreams with her ice cross downhill racing career. The sport is growing but she wishes it would be recognized on a bigger stage, and become viable enough where the athletes can compete full time. "I'd love to see it in the Olympics," she said. "It's a great spectator sport, [and] there's great competition."
"It takes a lot of time, and money, and time [to prepare]," she added. "It would definitely make it easier for people to focus more on the season. It's a juggling act, with real life and work."
For now, though, Legere is using her platform to make an impact on other women athletes. Several years ago, she started a YouTube channel named Chicks That Rip to create a community to allow for women to learn how to get into extreme sports. The channel features videos involving wake surfing, dirt biking, skydiving, and footage of her training for Red Bull Crashed Ice.
"A lot of people asked me how they can get into certain sports," Legere explained, "so I started holding events for people to come try out, or to just hang out. The main purpose of it is to have groups of girls training together. It's a male-dominated world in sports, so it's nice to have girl days, while doing something super fun.
"It's a great feeling. I almost can't put it into words. It's great to be able to inspire other people and get them out of their comfort zone and work toward a goal that they're intimidated to do. Seeing people try something and have a smile on their face [while doing it] is really rewarding."
Legere is set to compete in the 2018 Red Bull Crashed Ice world championship in Edmonton, Alberta, the last event of the season, in March. Amanda Trunzo from the United States sits atop the leaderboard, and Legere will need to finish first and have Trunzo finish 10th or lower in order to win her third consecutive world championship.
Even if she doesn't three-peat, Legere plans on continuing her ice cross downhill racing career for as long as she can. After all, the thrill has remained the same after all these years.
"The more experience," she said, "the more comfortable you are with it. I'm having more fun and worrying less."