In 2013, Whitehorse native Jessica Frotten began competing in wheelchair racing. Unsure of what her specialty might be, she signed up for the 100-, 200-, 400-, 800-, and 1,500-metre races at a meet at the University of Victoria.
“It was my first track meet,” she says. “I didn’t really know what I want to compete in, so I was just trying them all out.”
Jessica won the gold medal in all five events.
Pretty good for the woman who says she failed gym class in grade eight.
Just four years earlier, Jessica was in a devastating car accident. While travelling to Haines Junction, Yukon along the Alaska Highway, the car she was a passenger in hit a frost heave, slid off the road and flipped into a ditch.
Jessica and another passenger were thrown from the vehicle. Jessica severed her spinal cord, broke her ribs, feet and collarbone and suffered from a punctured lung and torn aorta.
She doesn’t remember anything from the accident. She remembers waking up about three weeks later in an Edmonton hospital.
“There wasn’t a lot of hope for me in those early days,” she says. “But I made it.”
She eventually moved her rehabilitation to Regina, Saskatchewan, where ongoing therapies and treatments began to give her some hope. She worked hard at recovery. Eventually, with the help of leg braces, she was able to take a few steps on her own.
Seeing her physical success in rehab inspired her to push her limits even further. That’s when she discovered wheelchair racing. That’s when she decided she could compete.
With access to Para athletics coaches and equipment and given the opportunity to train, she was soon able to start competing nationally. Her hometown rallied behind her.
“The best part of being an athlete from Whitehorse is the support,” Jessica says. “It's a small community, but they are always cheering for me!”
Now, as she competes in meets around the world – including the Dubai 2019 World Para Athletics Championships in November – with an aim to represent Canada at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, Jessica knows she has the support of Yukoners. They’ve always been there for her.
“Whitehorse has supported me so much along this journey,” she says. “The newspapers and radio have always followed along and check in on me throughout the seasons. I always get so many good wishes from across the Yukon. The sense of community in the north is like nothing I have ever seen. I’m a lucky girl!”
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