From Dal pharmacy student to Paralympian

Dal student Kamylle Frenette reflects on her journey to Tokyo 2020

Kamylle Frenette has come a long way in her paratriathlon career.  

Fresh off a fourth-place finish in the PTS5 paratriathlon competition at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, she used to spend her days training at Dalhousie University with the cross country team. She’s no stranger to the word busy. 

 “It’s definitely busy. There’s always something going on but to me, honestly, doing both school and triathlon at the same time has been a blessing in disguise,” Frenette said. She is in her fourth year of Dal’s doctor of pharmacy program and split time in Halifax last winter training for the Paralympics and going to school.  

“It is busy, but it’s a good way to balance everything else, so I’m not putting all my eggs in one basket. I balanced it by trying to be as organized as I can with my time and I always think it works. I love studying and I love sports. It’s a dream being able to do both.”  

Maintaining ties with the Tigers 

Frenette was born with unilateral talipes equinovarus, or unilateral clubfoot, and had corrective surgery when she was four months old. The procedure resulted in her right leg being smaller than her left, but nothing would stop her from becoming an elite athlete.  

Running for the Dalhousie cross country team, Frenette helped the team to a 14th place finish at the 2019 U SPORTS national championships. Even though she does not compete for the Tigers anymore, Frenette can still be found training at Dal. Even after her last year of eligibility, she trained with the team. 

To run a triathlon, one requires off-the-charts endurance and motivation. And that’s just to compete, not attend classes at the same time. Frenette starts her training as early as 5:45 a.m. each day to manage her coursework.  

“I usually swim four times a week. I’ll bike four times a week, run three to four times a week and then I’ll go to the gym to do some strength about two days a week, sometimes three,” she said. “The days are definitely busy. I’ll train two to three sessions a day and it’s busy, but it’s manageable.”  

Journey to becoming a Paralympian 

Not only is Frenette an impressive athlete, but an inspiration. In a piece by CBC, she discussed her internal debate regarding her place in the Paralympics. She said in the article she never thought of herself as eligible for the games until the Canadian Paratriathlon team approached her in 2016. It took her “a while” after that to publicly accept she has a disability, she said in the piece. 

“It was definitely a long process and it’s definitely ongoing, but I think it’s about taking the time. I always tell people that I think everybody has something that’s different about them,” Frenette said to the Dalhousie Gazette. “I think that will always be an ongoing debate that I’ll have with myself, but I enjoy the sport and I think for me, it’s a great way to reach the peak of my high-performance dreams.”  

  Sports are not just physically wearing, but mentally wearing, too. Frenette said the Dal community has supported her in so many ways. Her former Dal cross country coach, Richard Lehman, and other athletes helped her during her trials and tribulations at the university. 

  Breaking through those barriers to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games was a massive achievement on many levels. She began training only three months after fracturing her arm in a bicycle crash in 2018. 

“It’s really, really cool. It’s that I get to say I got to reach a lifelong dream and reach my high-performance peak or peak of excellence,” she said. “It means a lot to be able to represent Canada and represent the East Coast. Those are all things that really motivate me.” 

Frenette’s father, who ran triathlons, was a big inspiration for her and she began to run them with him. In an already impressive 2021, she also won a bronze medal in the World Triathlon Para A Cup event in Spain. After starting to train for triathlon at the age of 16, making it to the Paralympics within nine years is an impressive feat.  

After coming so close to a Paralympic medal, Frenette is not yet content. She is focused on upcoming events like the 2022 Abu Dhabi World Triathlon Championships. 

“The facilities and organizing the Games throughout a pandemic, it was really, really impressive how they pulled it off,” she said, recalling her time in Japan. “It was a great time. I really, really enjoyed my experience; it was more than I could have imagined.”  

Leave a Comment