Frédérique Pérusse: High Performance Balancing Act
By: Simone Cseplo
With excellence and leadership at the forefront of Biathlon Canada’s values, we have launched the, “Women in Biathlon Series”. Over the next three months, we will feature some of the great female athlete, coaches, officials and volunteers that support us in sport and help build our close-knit community. Follow us on social media @biathloncanadaofficial to keep up with each story as we hear from women across the country.
The combination of skiing and shooting requires focus and attention to detail — a balancing act of disciplines. For Frédérique Pérusse, she’s added another layer to it, by being a student-athlete as well.
The 19-year-old from Quebec City is not only a junior national team member and Canada Games medallist, but is finishing college with aspirations to go into medicine.
At 14-years-old, Pérusse competed at the International Biathlon Union (IBU), European Open and Youth and Junior World Cup. Her resume is nothing shy of impressive as she strives to be the top in biathlon and school.
Growing up in Quebec City, Pérusse says that her father convinced her to try biathlon after she stopped figure skating and was looking for a new sport.
“I didn’t really want to do biathlon at all, and didn’t want anything to do with it,” says Pérusse. “I thought, ‘I can do Jack Rabbit and cross-country ski’. But then I went to try shooting and the first time I shot, I got all five targets and just fell in love.”
With muscles burning, heart racing and focusing on targets—athletes are physically and mentally challenged. The tactical aspect of the sport forces athletes to bet on themselves. It’s the high level of physicality and strategy that makes biathlon unique.
“Going into biathlon is such a great sport […] and once you get to know it and try it, you just fall in love,” Pérusse tells Biathlon Canada. “The two aspects of the sport are just very different from each other but mixed together they’re just so beautiful.”
Being in such a niche sport hasn’t always been easy for the national team member. Training in Quebec City, Pérusse says she wishes she could train with more girls to push and motivate her, knowing that it would give her that extra encouragement.
“Just one more person would make a huge difference, and racing in Quebec would be very different,” Pérusse explains. “I love it when there are training camps and I can train with a group of multiple girls my age. That was just something I never had in Quebec.”
Despite having a small group, COVID-19 has prevented Pérusse and her teammates from training together. To stay positive, she reflects on some of her favourite memories of the sport to help her stay motivated.
She says Canada Games in 2019 was one of her fondest memories where she won a silver medal in the women’s relay. It wasn’t the hardware she brought home from Red Deer, AB that made it her favourite memory, but it being with other girls from Quebec. Racing and working alongside three other girls was what Pérusse cherishes most.
“There weren’t a lot of girls [in biathlon] in Quebec, and [at the Games] there were four of us and we had a good performance.”
Being part of a team is huge for any athlete but for Pérusse it becomes extra special.
Competitions like Canada Games where athletes from across the nation get to compete is one that gets her excited, knowing there will be other girls to form a team with her.
As the sport continues to grow, Pérusse says she hopes more women and girls will continue to stay in the sport and use each other for support and motivation.
“There are a few girls in Quebec that are coming up that are 15 or 16, and that’s good news. The message that I want to give them is they have each other to keep going, I didn’t have that and they should take advantage of that. It’s really fun just going up the ranks and doing it with your friends and training partners, it’s just so encouraging and you’re motivated by each other’s success.”
Knowing the pressures of balancing sport and school can be hard, Pérusse wants girls to know they can do both. She prides herself on being a student-athlete and wants to show younger girls that it can be done, and to use each other for support and encouragement.
“Personally, I see the benefits. I think it’s positive for me and I like being a student athlete. It’s what I do, and it’s who I am. It’s an important message for me and the girls in Quebec because it gives you a lot of opportunity.”
Pérusse hopes to show the balancing act of school and high-performance training can be done and inspires young girls to do both.
If you would like to read more stories like this, check out our Women’s Initiative page on our website.