Athlete hopes to race her way to Paralympic Games

A Saskatchewan athlete with an eye on the 2016 Paralympics is closer to her goal after recently qualifying for the Canada Games.
Wheelchair racer hopes to make 2016 Paralympics 2:20

A Saskatchewan athlete with an eye on the 2016 Paralympics is closer to her goal after recently qualifying for the Canada Games.

There isn't much that can stop Jess Frotten, 25, even though she only started racing a year ago.

She moved to Regina from the Yukon, after damaging her spinal cord in a car crash that left her paralyzed from the waist down.

Frotten was one of the first clients at First Steps Wellness Centre, a rehabilitation facility that specializes in spinal cord injuries in the city.

"It's completely changed my life," said Frotten. "It's given me the confidence to be more independent and to go out and try these things like racing and other sports."

It's also at the rehabilitation centre that Frotten trains for hours every day, forcing her muscles and nerves to work harder. So far, her efforts are working: She's started to regain feeling and movement in her hips and upper legs. 

Jess Frotten, 25, hopes to race in the 2016 paralympics in Rio. (Sheryl Rennie/CBC)

The facility is also the place where Frotten got into her first specially designed racing chair.

"I sucked at every sport," she said. "I wasn't very coordinated, but as soon as I got into a racer, I loved it."

Frotten squeezes herself into her chair, then she wheels herself onto the track, and gets going.

"I feel incredible. I feel strong and just, unstoppable, maybe."

A week ago, Frotten went to her first outdoor track meet, where she won gold in all five races and qualified for this summer's Canada Games.

Now Frotten is aiming for the Paralympics in Rio in 2016.

Ultimate goal is to walk again

Frotten has an even bigger goal in mind — she plans to walk again.

"What Jessica's gained in the time she's gained is nothing short of miraculous," said Owen Carlson, the executive director of First Steps Wellness Centre. "She does things quickly, she picks up things very fast, and she kind of gives it everything she's got."

The trainers at the centre said they have no doubt that Frotten can make the Paralympics, and could one day leave the wheelchair behind.

"I would say the chances are very slim," said Carlson. "But knowing Jessica and the function she's gained so far in her journey I definitely wouldn't say 'no' now."