Some say variety is the spice of life, and for Kamylle Frenette those words ring true both in and out of sport.
Frenette competed in her first Paralympics in August, placing fourth in the women’s PTS5 triathlon at Tokyo.
The para triathlon is a combined event. Consisting of a 750-metre swim, a 20-kilometre cycle and a five-kilometre run, athletes need to balance their training to keep all three aspects at competitive levels.
One of the keys to the Canadian’s success is diversifying her life along with her training, as she juggles school and clinical placements outside of competition.
“I find it very important to balance my life,” said Frenette, told the Toronto Observer in an interview following the Tokyo Paralympics in September. “It’s super easy to really get into sports and only do that, but I don’t find that balanced, and I find that hard mentally.”
Finding balance in the event
Before competing in the para triathlon, Frenette was an experienced runner in both short and long distances. Racing sprints until the age of 18, she joined the varsity cross-country team at the University of Moncton, competing from 2014 to 2018 while studying Biology.
Frenette competed in her first combined event at Iron Man 70.3 in Calgary at the age of 18.
In late 2016, Frenette was approached by Triathlon Canada’s Para head coach, Carolyn Murray, asking if the then cross-country runner would be open to joining the team. After initial reluctance to join para sport due to her perception of her own impairment, Frenette started para triathlon competition in 2018.
With some previous cycling experience with her father, who was a triathlete himself, the Dieppe, N.B. native found her most difficult adjustment was in the water.
“I think the swimming was where I was really, really lacking,” Frenette. “It’s such a technical sport and there is just so much to it that when you start a little bit later in life it’s definitely harder to learn.”
Despite her relative inexperience in the aquatic portion of the event, Frenette enjoyed early success in international competition, winning a World Cup race in 2018 and placing second at France’s World Para Triathlon Cup in that same year.
To improve her swimming technique, Frenette has been training with Zoe Miles since Oct. 2019. Miles is the head coach of the Sackville Waves Aquatic Club and is involved with several Swim Canada initiatives.
“What we’ve worked on with her, to start off, was just her body position and awareness of her limbs in the water,” said Miles told the Toronto Observer.
“I don’t know if you’ve seen competitors swim in the triathlon, who are better runners or better cyclists, but you can kind of see that they don’t really know what all their limbs are doing all the time. They just don’t have that strength and efficiency through the water.”
The hard work paid dividends in August.
Frenette’s swim at the Paralympics was one of her best, according to her coach, as she came out of the water in third place, setting herself up well for the cycle and run, but just missing out on the podium after finishing fourth.
“That was the best she’s ever performed in a swim portion of a triathlon, so I was really excited watching her,” said Miles. “We’ve worked on her race strategy throughout a couple of her prep triathlons heading into Tokyo, and she executed it the best she ever has.”
Finding balance outside of competition
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics were delayed a full year, resuming in the summer of 2021.
Frenette, who is currently a pharmacy student at Dalhousie University, took this opportunity to lend a hand in the fight to limit the spread of the virus.
“Back in 2020, in March, when the pandemic hit, and they postponed the Games I decided to get a part-time job at a pharmacy,” said Frenette. “Just to do something else since I knew the Games were postponed. That’s how I started working in the field, I worked all throughout the pandemic just helping out.”
Once vaccine supply had grown and Frenette had been trained, she started administering doses to residents of Nova Scotia.
“When the vaccines started coming out, it was about the time where they were going to give us our injection training, so we got that done at school,” she said. “I started injecting in April, under the supervision of a pharmacist of course, I’m not fully licensed. I injected throughout the summer until the games.”
What started as one shift a week became 15-20 hours a week, and in May of this year, the then 24-year-old was working full time in a pharmacy as a clinical placement for her education.
With time dedicated to her work and schooling, Frenette’s competitive preparation was somewhat altered, but she wouldn’t want it any other way.
“It definitely did affect my training because I wasn’t able to do all the hours that I potentially could have,” she said. “But at the same time, it kept me happy, so I think it’s a balance.”