Félix Lapointe had an extraordinary year in 2022. In March, his athlete Thomas Fafard won silver at the Pan Am cross-country championships in Brazil. In April, Charles Philibert-Thiboutot broke the Canadian 5k record and went on to set PBs in both the 5,000m and 10,000m on the track; he set a second Canadian record (this time over 2,000m) and attempted the 1,500m/5,000m double at the World Athletics Championships, reaching the semi-final in the 1,500. Philibert-Thiboutot, Fafard and Jean-Simon Desgagnés all medalled at nacac in August in the Bahamas, which Lapointe describes as a “special accomplishment” (silver for Fafard in the 5,000m, bronze for Philibert-Thiboutot in the 1,500m and for Desgagnés in the 3,000m steeplechase). And at the U Sports Cross Country Championships in Halifax on Nov. 12, the Université Laval Rouge et Or women, coached by Lapointe, took the team title (by one point), with 2021 champion Jessy Lacourse once again mounting the podium (in second), while the Laval men took second place despite missing Desgagnés, who was injured.
With both his university athletes and his pros, Lapointe credits a change in his training philosophy in recent years to emphasize rest and recovery over volume and intensity. He adds that he is careful to be especially flexible with older athletes like Philibert-Thiboutot (who turns 32 on Dec. 31), urging extra rest days before big track sessions if he is not feeling 100 per cent.
Lapointe also values the personal side of the coaching relationship: “Something I really like is having the opportunity to work a long time with athletes,” he says. “Charles is a good example—we’ve been together for 12 years. It’s amazing the kind of relationship you can build over more than 10 years.” For his part, Philibert-Thiboutot has this to say about Lapointe: “He’s very much a coach that does not put his ego first. There’s this thing that good coaches have big egos, and Félix is the exact opposite of that. His athletes always come first; he takes the blame if things go wrong.”
Lapointe emphasizes that he believes in a collaborative relationship with his athletes, and makes sure they’re on board with what he’s asking them to do. “I will never ask an athlete to follow a training plan that they’re not comfortable with,” he says. “After all, it’s their career, not mine.”