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Yukon wheelchair racer ‘humbled’ to take part in Tokyo Paralympic Games

‘We really became ambassadors for sport and for human resilience in this whole pandemic’
Yukon wheelchair racer Jessica Frotten seen on the track in Tokyo practicing. (Photo submitted by Jessica Frotten).

Yukon wheelchair racer Jessica Frotten is back in Canada, and readjusting from the jetlag, after competing in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games.

Frotten raced in four events, the 800, 1,500, and 400 metre individual events as well as the 4x100 universal relay. She said she believes that she could have done better.

“I’m a little frustrated with my performances,” said Frotten. “I think I had more but it didn’t translate onto the track. I made the final of the 400 and I made some tactical errors in my distance stuff.”

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Frotten said she hadn’t raced “in a pack for two years” and the adjustment was difficult.

Despite this, she said it was a great learning experience and bonding with the team was awesome.

“I learned some stuff for sure,” said Frotten. “We set a new Canadian record in our relay, so pretty pumped about that.

“Our whole athletics team did really well. Everyone finished in the top eight in their events and we had some win medals and we made some finals.”

The Canadian athletics team only had 16 athletes representing the country.

“I’m so proud, we really came together as a team,” said Frotten. “It was a super small team so it was really tight-knit and maybe that’s because we were locked together with each other for a month.

“We came together and really cheered each other on and we were there for all the highs and all the lows.”

Athletically, Frotten said her favourite part of the Games was making the finals of the 400 metre event and the universal relay, where she and her teammates set a Canadian record.

“That relay is so much fun to race and we did really well,” said Frotten. “We hadn’t been able to get together as a team with COVID and everything to really train. At our training camps were the first practices we had.”

Frotten is no stranger to the international stage, having competed in world championships and Commonwealth Games, but said the Paralympics were a notch up.

“The Paralympics are really a completely different level,” said Frotten. “I think I put too much pressure on myself, but it was amazing. I loved every minute of it and would do it again.”

Yukon wheelchair racer Jessica Frotten gets interviewed with her universal relay teammates, Zachary Gingras, Marissa Papaconstantinou, and Austin Ingram (left-right) after their race in Tokyo. (Jessica Frotten/Submitted)

Frotten said she couldn’t pick just one memory from Tokyo that was her favourite but said it was amazing how Team Canada came together.

“We really became ambassadors for sport and for human resilience in this whole pandemic,” said Frotten. “That was super cool just knowing that we got to be a part of that when a lot of us didn’t think it was going to happen.

“I’m super pumped for Japan, they really made it happen. I’m humbled and honoured to be part of these COVID games.”

Frotten said officials made the Games safe for everyone and tested athletes every day but felt sorry they had to host through the pandemic.

“It’s really sad that Tokyo couldn’t welcome the world because they were so ready,” said Frotten. “The facilities were beautiful and we were so welcomed everywhere we went.”

Now that she’s back from the Paralympics, Frotten said she’s going to take some time away from the track.

“I’m just going to chill and not think about training or competing to give my mind and body a break,” said Frotten. “I went into the Games with a bit of a shoulder injury, which was managed throughout the Games but now I’m really going to take care of it.”

She added she’s also excited to dive into some junk food.

Once Frotten has recovered, she said she will think about what she’ll do next.

“The next Paralympics are actually only three years away now,” said Frotten. “I think that three years is going to happen in the blink of an eye really.

“It’s a pretty busy schedule leading up to next year’s Commonwealth Games and world championships with a following world championships the following year. Right now, I’m just enjoying not being in my racer and taking some time to process the experience.

“We’ll make the decision on what the next move is a little bit down the road.”

To all those who helped her on her journey, Frotten gave everyone an “Earth-shattering thank you.”

“Thank you to everyone who helped to get me here and supported me along this journey as I couldn’t have done it without the support of the community,” said Frotten. “We have a pretty special community in Whitehorse and the whole Yukon and I felt the love even across the ocean in Tokyo.”

The next Paralympics will be held in Paris in 2024.

Frotten’s race results from Tokyo (given in order of when they took place):

The 800-metre heat – 1:56.79, fourth place in the heat.

The 1,500-metre heat – 3:52.23, seventh in the heat.

The 400-metre heat – 59. 98, fourth in the heat.

The 400-metre final – 1:01.16, eighth place.

The universal relay – 49.38, Canadian record, third in the heat.

Her teammates for the universal relay were Zachary Gingras, Austin Ingram, and Marissa Papaconstantinou.

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