Yukoner Jessica Frotten to compete at Tokyo Paralympics
'It was a really tough team to make ... you had to be ranked pretty high up there'
It won't be quite what she had dreamed of, but Yukoner Jessica Frotten is still "over the moon" to be named to Canada's Paralympic team going to Tokyo next month.
"I'm super excited," she said, soon after finding out she'd made the cut.
"It was a really tough team to make. It was the smallest athletic team we've ever had, so you had to be ranked pretty high up there."
It will be the first Paralympics for the wheelchair racer. Frotten had hoped to make the team going to Rio five years ago, but she was passed over.
Now it's actually happening — and after a year and a half when training has been difficult, and competition non-existent. Normally, she would have spent much of last winter at warm-weather training camps; instead she spent it in Regina, where she now lives.
"So I was doing a lot of just training inside, on essentially, a treadmill for my racer. And I just had my very first competition in about a year and a half, last week," she said.
Frotten also faced other setbacks last year. Her custom-built racing wheelchair was stolen from her garage in downtown Regina in June 2020.
She was expecting it to take months to have a new one built, but within weeks a U.S. company had one ready and shipped up to her. She was soon rolling again.
Frotten got into para athletics eight years ago, after she borrowed a racing wheelchair from the Saskatchewan Wheelchair Sports Association. She had been diagnosed with a spinal cord injury following a car accident in 2009.
She competed at the 2015 and 2017 IPC World Championships, and the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia. The Commonwealth Games were a disappointment, though — she crashed during a race and it took weeks to recover.
She fared much better at the 2018 Swiss Grand Prix, taking a silver medal in the 400-metre, and bronze medals in the 200-metre and 800-metre.
Now she's ready for the Paralympic stage. She feels she's worked hard to adapt to different training regimens and changing plans through the pandemic.
"I've done all that I can and I'm pretty proud of what I've done," she said.
In Tokyo, she'll be competing in the 100-metre, 400-metre, 800-metre, 1,500-metre, 5,000-metre, and 4x100-metre relay races. The team leaves Canada on Aug. 14 and once there they'll have some time to acclimatize before competition.
"It's going to be hot and humid. I think I'm ready, I've got a pretty good heat plan and we have a really, really great heat management team that's going to be traveling with us."
She knows there's still some risk associated with the pandemic, but she's confident that Team Canada officials will do all they can to keep everyone safe.
It also won't be quite the same without fans and family cheering from the stands, she says.
"So it's not exactly how I imagined my first Paralympics would be — but it's still very exciting."
The Tokyo 2020 Paralympics happen from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5. Follow the Games at CBC Sports.