They weren’t medals won for Team Yukon, but they were wins for the Yukon just the same.
Whitehorse’s Jessica Frotten, who is racing for Team Saskatchewan at the Canada Summer Games, won two bronze medals in para wheelchair racing on Thursday.
“I’m racing for Sask, but my heart’s in the Yukon,” said Frotten. “It really is.”
The 25-year-old, born and raised in Whitehorse, won bronze in the 400-metre race in the afternoon and the 1,500-metre in the evening in Sherbrooke.
“I’m just feeling incredible. The whole experience has just been amazing,” said Frotten. “I’ve worked really hard to get here.”
She has been training hard, but has only been competing for six months. Her first outdoor track meet, in which she won five gold, was just in May.
Frotten is competing for Team Saskatchewan because she 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.
Quebec’s Sarah White, who claimed gold in both races, is blown away by how far Frotten has come in such a short time.
“That’s insane, it’s just crazy,” said White, the winner of gold and three silver at the national championships in June. “She’s a T3, so she’s in my category, and I know she’s going to go a very long way. It’s amazing that she’s at this level after six months.”
Frotten attended numerous meets through the summer but was never as fast as she was in Sherbrooke. She shaved three seconds off her best time in the 400-metre, finishing in 1:16.78, and almost 21 seconds off her 1,500-metre time at 5:06.99.
“She just got a 20 second PB (personal best) and that’s just undoable,” added White. “A 20-second PB is huge.”
Frotten needed that PB. Without it she would have placed fourth. She slipped into fourth during the second lap behind B.C.‘s Djami Diallo, but retook the position on the next lap and beat her by a narrow seven seconds at the finish line.
She was just two seconds behind the silver medalist, New Brunswick’s Veronica Coombes, in the 400-metre.
“I’m happy with two bronze,” said Frotten. “This is my first really big race.”
Racing has changed Frotten’s life and the lives of others as well. She was training out of Saskatoon but became sick of the long drive from Regina. So she and her coach, Stacey Laing, decided to start their own club, which they got off the ground with a government grant.
It’s called the Regina Racing Club, but they are starting to lean towards The Speed Racers. That seems fitting.
They began the club about a year ago and it has since grown to five athletes.
“She’s motivated,” said Laing. “She has the drive and sometimes I don’t know where that drive comes from. She has the dedication of an athlete already.”
While she struggled to maintain her position in the 1,500, Frotten also struggled with her equipment. She had problems with her compensator – the steering mechanism of her chair – during the race and had to adjust her direction frequently, even on the straights.
“The whole compensator within the chair structure was loose, so that’s a pretty big malfunction,” said Laing. “She shouldn’t be racing like that.”
There’s a chance Frotten will have another medal before the Games wrap up on Saturday. She is set to race in the 200-metre race on Friday.
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