Jessica Frotten has come a long way in the past six years. In December 2009, she was a passenger in a nasty car wreck on the Alaska Highway just outside Whitehorse that paralyzed her from the waist down. As the legal proceedings resulting from the crash dragged on for years, Frotten, a born-and-raised Yukoner, relocated to Regina for specialized rehab. And that’s where she started racing.
Her first competition as a wheelchair athlete was in May 2013, at the University of Victoria. She signed up for the 100, 200, 400, 800, and 1,500 metre races. “It was my first track meet,” she told media at the time. “I don’t really know what I want to compete in, so I was just trying them all out.” She took the gold medal in all five events. Later that summer, she won three bronze medals at the Canada Summer Games.
The next year, at the 2014 Canadian Track and Field Championships, she became a national champion, winning two gold medals and one silver.
2015 saw her add five more national medals to her hoard: two silver and three bronze, again spread across all five distances. And she took on some of the best in the world at the Parapan Am Games in Toronto, winning bronze in the 100 and the 400 metre races. (She also placed fourth in the 800.) With the Rio 2016 Olympics on the horizon, she’s ready to reach higher.
Most elite Northern athletes leave home and move south for access to the coaching or facilities they need to excel. It wasn’t a choice for Frotten but she used her relocation to her advantage while facing down more obstacles than most. Now, she’s dominating on the global stage.