She’s a student. She’s a track star. She's a rebel.
She's also a TikTok star.
When you first see Kendra Leger she has an intimidating glare in her eyes. Dyed hair, earrings, and a little pink heart tattoo above her right cheekbone.
Leger said it means she wears her heart out in the open, being a lover not a fighter, but also fighting for what she loves.
With over 115,000 followers and 3.6 million likes on TikTok and 9,500 followers on Instagram, the University of Guelph student started to blow up on social media since she posted her first TikTok video in 2020. This comes as a bit of surprise considering there was a whole year she went without a phone.
Her videos aim to break stereotypes about women athletes, her recovery process after injuring her achilles, and inspire other athletes.
At 23-years-old Leger is in her fifth and final year of eligibility as a Gryphon athlete, graduating this year with a degree in criminal justice.
She’s from Welland and worked hard to leave the city in order to pursue her passion for track. Currently, Leger does 60 metre hurdles while the season is inside for the winter.
While in Grade 11 at Notre Dame College School in Welland, Michael Heron started coaching her.
“I’m not coming from a family with money,” said Leger. Heron told her she couldn’t afford him.
Leger said he was being cocky since he coaches people for free. She dropped off a full second of her running time for 100 metre dash after working a year with Heron.
She started hurdling in her last year of high school, and after her first race she was top three in Canada for her age.
“I completely destroyed everyone,” said Leger.
In her third year with the Gryphons track and field team, the pandemic hit and she said she knew her season was going to be taken away. She was on the long-list for going to the Olympics that year.
This was also around the time Gryphon track coach Dave Scott Thomas was fired for misconduct.
“A lot of things just changed with my team and I felt like there was a lot of disconnect. I kind of felt like I was being pushed away, from Guelph particularly,” said Leger.
This led her to Iowa State University, a top NCAA school that gave her a scholarship. She stayed a year, and then ahead of a track meet she tore her achilles in the warm-up area. Leger needed two years to fully recover from her injury.
“I tore my achilles. My scholarship’s gone. My season’s over. And I’m done,” she said.
Leger tracked her recovery process in some of her TikTok videos.
She pushed herself hard, and was on and off the track. Leger took some time off school.
“I wanted to get back so bad, it was a detriment,” she said.
This semester at U of G she said things are working out and she was cleared to compete.
“I’m pretty aware of how important my environment is to how it attributes to my success. Which is also why I’m back here because this environment is exactly where I need to be for my progress,” said Leger.
Two rookies on her team blew up on TikTok and she thought she could do it too. In Iowa she said she felt isolated so she started making videos.
After her injury people reached out to Leger on social media who shared their own experiences with athletic injuries.
“I was able to connect with those people and it really helped my own healing process,” she said.
Her videos reflect her athletic experience in both Canada and the U.S.
“You’re, by design, student first, athlete second,” said Leger, about the Canadian experience.
In the U.S. athletes get a full ride, housing, food, and gear are covered.
In the future she would like to monetize her TikTok to help support herself by sharing her life online. “The only thing about being an athlete in Canada is you don’t have the funding you get in America,” said Leger.
She wants the Gryphons’ track and field team to gain recognition of what they are capable of in Canada with the lack of funds, and their appreciation of the sport. She plans to do this with social media to attract sponsors to help along the way.
“One of my biggest draws to social media. Is that if I can gain a proper platform, I feel like my opinion ... can do something,” said Leger.
“And that’s also always been an aspiration I’ve had for track specifically. If I can go somewhere with track. I’ve seen women competing on international levels running some incredible times and they’ve had these abilities where their voices are heard a little bit more because of what they are capable of.”
In a TikTok video Leger is posing for new team shots in her Gryphon uniform. “I should be capable of portraying myself exactly the way I want to. And if it’s through this way, looking like a badass on the track showing off my muscles then I think I should be okay. I’ve worked to gain this definition,” she said.
In track athletes have a little more freedom with what they wear and what they look like on the field.
“I’d like to bring that on a more local level and definitely have other girls being inspired and trying new things too.”