Heading into her first outdoor track meet, Whitehorse’s Jessica Frotten wasn’t sure which distances she’d like to specialize in, so she entered them all.
Her results might not have helped make the decision any easier.
The 25-year-old won five gold medals in wheelchair racing at the 2013 Dogwood Track and Field Meet at the University of Victoria over the weekend.
“I am a little bit surprised actually,” said Frotten. “It was so much fun. My dad (Howard) came from Whitehorse to come cheer me on. I had a little cheering section – the loudest in the stands.”
Frotten won gold in every race she entered, placing first in the 100-, 200-, 400-, 800- and 1,500-metre events in the T53 racing division.
“It was my first track meet. I don’t really know what I want to compete in, so I was just trying them all out,” said Frotten. “I did two small (meets) in Saskatoon indoors, but this was my first time outside. I did some sprints – a 60, a 100 and a 200 – but I didn’t do too well in them: I came in last.”
In addition to collecting five gold, Frotten registered national times that qualify her to compete at the Canada Summer Games this August in Sherbrooke, Quebec.
However, the Yukon-born athlete will not represent the territory if she competes at the Games. Frotten, who now calls Regina home, would represent Saskatchewan.
“It just didn’t work out. There was talk about fundraising, (Team Yukon) didn’t have a budget for adaptive sports,” said Frotten. “And there’s nowhere for me to train up there. There’s no track.
“It’s really too bad. I’d like to race for the Yukon, but the Saskatchewan racing team really helped me out – the Cyclones out of Saskatoon – so I’ll wear the (Saskatchewan) green.”
Frotten was training out of Saskatoon but became a little sick of the drive from Regina. So she and her coach, Stacey Laing, decided to start their own club that they got off the ground with a government grant.
“I’ve been training really hard every day,” said Frotten. “I helped start a racing club in Regina, because when I first started, I was driving every morning to Saskatoon to train with a team there. I just got really tired of driving two hours. I have a coach here in Regina and we started a team.”
“We’re just the Regina Racing Club, but I’m pushing for the Speed Racers.”
(Speed Racer was a Japanese anime about auto racing that first aired in the 1960s.)
Frotten, who was born and raised in Whitehorse, moved to Regina for the First Steps Wellness Centre, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for those living with spinal cord injuries.
It is Canada’s first facility certified by Project Walk, a world leader in spinal cord injury treatment.
“It’s all about retaining your nervous system through intense exercise therapy,” said Frotten. “I’ve been doing that for almost two years and it just networked from there and got into track (racing) through those guys.”
“I think I made everyone jealous because they’ve been racing for seven, 10 years, and I’m just a rookie coming in and blew them all away,” she added of the Victoria meet.
Winning races, helping start a sports club – not bad for someone who doesn’t have a background in sports, except for some minor baseball as a child.
“Being in a wheelchair has changed my whole outlook on life,” said Frotten. “Maintaining a normal, active lifestyle is really crucial to life in a wheelchair.”
Frotten became a paraplegic in a car accident on the Alaska Highway outside of Whitehorse in December 2009.
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