Jeanne Lehair has hit the first half of 2023 in some of the form of her life. The 27-year-old’s first full season racing in the colours of Luxembourg after making the switch from France has been her best yet, a first WTCS top 5 in Cagliari followed a week later by the European title in Madrid.
The decision to make the switch was never going to be a straightforward one, especially with the prospect of racing with the tricolor at a home Olympic Games and next year’s Paris 2024 on the horizon. Lehair stuck to the plan, however, and it has paid off. Next up, as she explained from her home in Toulouse, the prospect of being part of Luxembourg’s first Mixed Relay Team at the European Games Krakow and continuing her charge up the individual world rankings.
Confidence-building start to 2023
“I know that I’m in shape at this moment and maybe in two months it’ll be different… we never know. But the results are better and better, so it’s pretty cool. Before Cagliari I was like; ‘okay, I hope I will do top 16… top 12 would be really cool’. But then races are all different. Sometimes you can be very happy with 20th, sometimes very sad with eight. But I was not expecting this.”
The self belief has started to flow after of a series of performances that has seen Jeanne Lehair up to 7th in the world, posting some of the fastest run splits in the Series and holding off Lisa Tertsch in a captivating European Championship battle in Madrid. It is something of a new sensation for someone who, by their own admission, has found herself hunting excuses rather than taking on those she considers the best in the world.
“Running with Cassandre (Beaugrand) in Cagliari… she’s like almost unbeatable, or maybe by the best, best, best… so when I caught her after T2 I was like; “Um, Jeanne, what are you doing? It’s a 10k! It was not about confidence, I was like, maybe you are doing something a bit stupid?”
Chasing Series starts
Racing with Cassandre for more than a decade, Lehair has been inevitably comparing herself with those making greater strides into the WTCS Series while she was still grabbing at occasional starting berths.
After discovering that she had Luxembourg heritage four years ago, the seed was sewn for a potential switch in order to get more of those big opportunities, but the decision to leave a federation and set-up like that of the French, one where she had forged great memories, was never going to be straightforward.
“I think it helped us a lot, our generation, to all be so strong because we could never go home and say; “Okay, today I will go easy. It’s pretty cool to see we are all still there, like all focused on a triathlon career.”
Seizing the moments
It did also create a situation that saw Lehair struggling to make an impact at the top level.
“So after the season I did in 2021, I had access for sure to World Cups, but I had the French Federation on the phone and they told me; ‘You can race Yokohama, and if you do top eight, then you can do whatever you want.’ And I was; ‘Yeah, but you know as me that I will not, or probably not.’”
So the process was set in motion, and subsequent results have more than justified the decision. They include the double joy of a career best 5th place in Sardinia that would also have met the qualification criteria for the Paris Test Event - had she still been with team France. But still, no regrets.
“If I was still with the French, maybe I wouldn’t have been able to race Cagliari and do what I did there. I certainly don’t want to cut contact, I did a lot with them. I won my first, championship with them in Relay, a memory I will have forever in my mind. But I want to race and I love relays. With Luxembourg we can write our own history and start from really the zero because, in Krakow European Games it’ll be their first ever relay for example.”
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