A tale of two Genevieves, steeplechase and eating mangoes in the Arctic
They’re both steeplechasers. They’re both national record holders. They’re both in their mid-20s, and they both competed in the final of the women’s 3000m steeplechase at the Rio Olympics.
And their names are almost exactly the same.
Introducing Genevieve Lalonde and Genevieve LaCaze, two entrants in the women’s 3000m steeplechase final at Carrara Stadium on Wednesday 11 April.
And although their names are eerily alike, spectators will be able to distinguish the two on the track with Lalonde wearing the Canadian maple leaf, and LaCaze in Australia’s green and gold.
Over the years of their alikeness has caused a couple of confusing moments in competition, mainly in call rooms before their races, with the pair having to ask ‘Genevieve La...? Australia or Canada?’ to find out who the officials are looking for.
Lalonde thinks it’s great that they have “basically the same name” and jokes that LaCaze is her “polar opposite” living in Australia.
“Genevieve is such a lovely person, such an amazing athlete,” Lalonde told GC2018.com.
She’s done incredible things, it’s great to have someone like that around in the sport and to work together with and also to chase after and try to break those records.
“I really look forward to racing her here and even just having her around, she’s a wonderful person.”
Usually based in opposite hemispheres, the Canadian has spent a bit of time in LaCaze’s home state of Queensland over the last few years.
In 2017 Lalonde moved to the Sunshine Coast with her boyfriend, professional triathlete and fellow Canadian John Rasmussen, to write her thesis at a local university.
“As I was finishing up my masters my adviser, who’s from Canada, said ‘hey, why don’t you come and write your thesis in Australia’ – who wouldn’t say yes to that?” she said.
“I wrote my thesis [on the Sunshine Coast] with the environmental change research group and then realised there was an amazing track around there and some beautiful running trails and great hiking and was such a fun place to be.”
Already an avid mango fan, her time in Australia nurtured the obsession many Queenslanders share - mangoes.
It also helped her make a few Australian friends in Uluhaktok, a hamlet in the Canadian Arctic, where she spent a couple of months conducting research.
“I brought dried mango, just because that was something that I loved, and they were so in love and I think we became friends mostly because of the dried mango,” she said.
Lalonde’s stint in the Arctic came just before the Rio Olympics.
Acknowledging it was not the ideal environment to train before one of the biggest races of her career, the Canadian still made the final and broke the Canadian record.
“I love running around in circles and jumping over things,” she laughed.
“You can do that pretty much anywhere in the world and that’s what’s cool about track. In places like the Arctic it’s challenging because it’s extremely cold, so training was quite hard and probably one of the hardest places in the world to train.
“I strongly don’t advise anyone training for any major Games to go up there,” she added.
Regardless of the environment, the 26-year-old has a strong track record of shining on the big stage, setting another national record at the 2017 IAAF London World Championships.
And she wants to lower it again on Wednesday night.
“I was a dancer as a young kid, so I loved performing. When you step out onto that stage it gives you that extra oomph of energy,” she said.
When you’ve got big crowds and stuff like that cheering for you, it definitely brings out the best in you, hopefully I will bring that Canadian record down once again at the Comm Games.”
An exciting event to watch, the steeplechase adds another element to the track and field program, with the barriers and water jump adding a bit of drama, as well as the occasional spill along the way.
One part of the race in particular is Lalonde's favourite.
“The thrill of jumping into the water pit,” she said.
“It’s always super exciting and I get to do it seven times per race so that’s pretty cool.
“Every barrier, you never know what’s going to happen. It’s the rogue sport on the track.”