At 73 years old and 5 feet tall, Louise Atkinson Clark is something of a legend at Ironman Mont-Tremblant.

World triathlons, marathons, half-Ironman… Ms. Atkinson Clark has lost count of the competitions in which she has taken part. From Toronto to New York, from Tokyo to London, via Puerto Rico and Chicago: the native of Quebec has been traveling all over the world for 13 years to satisfy her passion, without ever missing the annual meeting of Tremblant, taking place this weekend.

“I’m not doing this for that, but it looks like I’m inspiring a damn gang!” exclaims the charming lady in a burst of communicative laughter, Friday, seated with La Presse on a terrace.

Mrs. Atkinson Clark immediately agreed to meet with us, two days before her umpteenth half-Ironman. “Hopefully I live up to what you are looking for…” she emailed us. It was enough to see her arrive with her broad smile after an hour of waiting at check-in to understand that the conversation would be interesting.

At 73, therefore, Louise Atkinson Clark devotes her life and her money to her passion: training. “Competitions are like training, but they feed you and tell you where to go,” she sums up.

That statement certainly wouldn’t have come out of her mouth in 1980, when she gave birth to her third son…and decided to take up running.

“I hated running for two years,” she says candidly. I would run 20 minutes and quit. […] I had to move, it was my third child! »

One thing leading to another, she ran 3 km, then 5 and finally 10. It was not until 2003, 23 years after she started, while her sons were training for the Montreal marathon, that she had a “bubble”. “I could do the half marathon,” she thought.

She did it. And that was the start of something much bigger…

In the spring of 2006, Louise Atkinson Clark was swimming in an indoor pool in Saint-Eustache when she met a lady. “She’s like, ‘Do you do triathlons?’ I said, “Are you crazy? It’s a gang of flippers!” I was doing all three sports, but I said to myself: it’s impossible for me to put the three sports one behind the other. »

It was the lady’s husband who told her about the sprint distance. Convinced, Atkinson Clark signed up for her first triathlon. Thus was born his love for sport. Love that grew, then grew, until she participated in her first worlds, in Budapest in 2010. She was 60 years old.

Since retiring as a nurse in 2011, Ms. Atkinson Clark has been training full time.

In 2011, she enlisted the services of a professional trainer: Philippe Bertrand, from LifeSport. Qualified for the world triathlon in China, she preferred to take part in the Canadian Championships in Kelowna, where she won. Then she finished first of 69 women in her age category at the Toronto Half Marathon. “I did it in 1 hr 50 min!” she exclaims proudly.

The following year, 2012, she competed in her first half Ironman, at Tremblant, which she completed with “an excellent time”. It was however, she didn’t know then, her last competition for some time…

Three weeks later, Ms. Atkinson Clark was cycling in a small country lane in Terrebonne when she was hit head-on by a motorist who was sleeping at the wheel.

“He hit me at about 90 km/h. I woke up at Sacré-Coeur three days later with 18 fractures. One pneumothorax, ten thousand cases. I was in a corset for four months, in a hospital bed. They came to wash me. »

“Inwardly, I thought of the three girls who had been killed the year before on the 116, of the Ironwomen, she relates. They were going to a camp in Sherbrooke. After that, I thought of a workmate who got hit on her bike in the United States by a woman who was texting. She was less lucky than me. She remained a vegetable for five years and she died. »

According to the doctors, Mrs Atkinson Clark survived the accident thanks to her great physical condition.

True to form, she got through this ordeal by remaining positive. Eleven months later, she returned to competition by completing a duathlon at Tremblant. This accident changed her life, believes the one who now lives in Tremblant.

“I’m supposed to be dead or in a wheelchair, so life is very good!” »

In the last 10 minutes of our interview, Louise Atkinson Clark lists the competitions in which she has taken part around the world since 2013. There are so many, that we get lost in them.

“That’s crazy, huh! All my money goes on this! she says.

Mrs. Atkinson Clark has had various injuries over the years. Last year, at Tremblant, she collapsed after 15 km of cycling. She passed all possible heart and brain tests: “Everything is normal,” she says. If necessary, she consults an osteopath; she also met him a few hours before our interview for his half-Ironman on Sunday.

How long does she plan to continue competing? “As long as I can!” she exclaims. There, I am doing the six major marathons. I always said I would never run a marathon, but never say never. »

She checked New York, Berlin, Tokyo and London off her list. Chicago will be added in the fall. Only Boston will remain.

“After Boston, I won’t be doing any more marathons,” she clarified, before adding, “I’m going to do half marathons.” »

Well yes, of course!

There was already a certain excitement in the air of Tremblant on Friday afternoon, as the athletes arrived in the city. The weekend will kick off this Saturday morning, at 7 a.m., with the 5150 Triathlon. The course consists of 1.5 km of swimming, 40 km of cycling and 10 km of running.

On Sunday, starting at 6:50 a.m., Ironman 70.3 will take place. Athletes will complete 1.9 km of swimming, 90 km of cycling and 21.1 km of running. The men’s front runners include Canadians Lionel Sanders and Jackson Laundry as well as Americans Trevor Foley and Tim O’Donnell. On the women’s side, Canadians Tamara Jewett and Rach McBride will be present, as well as Americans Jodie Robertson and Mollie Hebda.