Jessica Frotten will be representing the Yukon, and Canada, at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games in para-athletics.
Following a car accident in 2009, Frotten was diagnosed with a spinal cord injury. She would pursue a career in wheelchair racing shortly after.
Now she will compete on the world’s largest sporting stage.
“I’m pretty stoked,” said Frotten from Regina where she trains. “I kind of wish it wasn’t the most strange Olympics in history. But, I’m really proud to be going. I’m so excited about it.”
Frotten has competed at some of the world’s largest events before and has an impressive resume.
She has medalled at the 2015 Parapan American Games and had strong, medal performances at the 2018 Swiss Grand Prix. Frotten’s last competition came in 2019 at the World Championships in Dubai.
It will be Frotten’s first Paralympic Games. It has been a journey to make it to this point.
“It’s been a long one,” said Frotten. “I missed out on the Rio team by just a second. It was heartbreaking. I almost quit racing but I came back a lot stronger.”
After missing out on the Rio team, Frotten said she took some time away from the sport.
“I took the time off and I really missed it,” said Frotten. “It just makes me so happy to race and to see those little gains and those personal bests.
“It’s such a big part of who I am. I just wasn’t done yet. I was just getting started.”
Some new equipment and training regime also helped her improve her times.
“My times improved just from the equipment upgrade,” said Frotten. “But, I definitely started putting a lot more time in the gym also. I was able to get in more training camps and upped the training to high-performance levels.”
The road to Tokyo hasn’t been an easy one for Frotten. Like many athletes, she had to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This last year and a half has been a struggle,” said Frotten. “Not just physically, in modifying training, but emotionally in being so far away from my family but I think I managed to pull it all together.”
A week and a half ago Frotten competed in her first event since the 2019 World Championships in Dubai – an event in Quebec.
“We didn’t have the best weather but I had some really, really strong races out there,” said Frotten.
Her recent performances have her feeling confident about Tokyo.
While at the Games, Frotten said she will for sure be racing the 400 and 800 metre races and the 4×100 relay.
“We have a really cool event that a lot of people don’t know about, it’s the universal relay,” said Frotten.
The universal relay is a mixed-gendered event that has two men and two women representatives. It sees athletes from different classifications compete side-by-side.
It must include an athlete from the vision impairment class, the wheelchair racing class, the co-ordination impairment class and an athlete with limb impairment.
“It’s quite exciting to watch,” said Frotten. “The lead changes all the time.”
Frotten and her teammates competed in this event in Dubai and she feels they have the potential to do quite well in Tokyo.
In her other events, Frotten said she is picturing herself on the podium but expects some strong competition.
“Australia will be strong for sure,” said Frotten. “The States always has a really strong racing team and so does Great Britain but I’m right there with them.”
If not for COVID, Frotten would have already competed against the world’s best in qualifying events.
“I guess I’m going in a little bit blind because I haven’t raced against them but I’m not worried about it,” said Frotten.
The thought of medalling at the Paralympics has Frotten excited, but so does representing the Yukon.
“Dude, I’m so pumped about this,” said Frotten. “Yukon has supported me so, so much. It’s amazing. I’ve gotten so much support from the Yukon, the whole community and my family and friends. I’m so proud. I’m going to sneak a little sticker on my rig somewhere.”
Frotten and her teammates will arrive in Japan on August 14 and have some time to shake off the jetlag and get situated before the competition begins.
“We have a bit of training camp in Gifu and then we’ll travel to the village,” said Frotten.
Athletes can arrive three days before their event and then must leave 48 hours after their event is over, said Frotten.
“I think it’s just going to be a continuous train of athletes coming out of and into the village,” said Frotten.
Given the pandemic, Tokyo Olympic organizers have imposed strict restrictions to try and keep athletes safe. Frotten said she doesn’t think she’ll get the entire Olympic experience but is excited nonetheless.
“I think once I get there and I get to put on that Canada jersey it’s just gonna feel right.”
The athletics competitions will begin on August 28.
Contact John Tonin at email@example.com