Most of us only dream about competing in the Olympics. What started as a dream for Jenna Fesemyer has become a reality thanks to hard work and perseverance. Jenna is a paralympic athlete and so much more. The Paralympic Games begin in late August in Tokyo.
Her individual empowerment is an inspiration to many, and wait until you discover what her mom told her at a young age, that continues to motivate her every day. Be sure to keep an eye on this amazing world class athlete from Northeast Ohio. Find out how you can follow her journey, and experience what she's going through along the way.
What does it take to get to the Olympics? Training, training, and more training, which for Jenna includes workouts along miles and miles of cornfields. The road to Tokyo for Jenna began when this 24-year-old decided to compete in the Ohio high school wheelchair track meet in 2013. Jenna graduated from Southeast High School in Portage County, Ohio, and grew up in Ravenna.
Always competitive, Jenna is the youngest triplet of David and Cindy Fesemyer. Her mom was also one of her coaches, and continues to be her inspiration. Jenna was born without her left leg and hip joint, and uses a prosthetic leg.
Jenna is Ohio's first Paralympic athlete, and she is sure she will not be the last.
Mace® Brand caught up with Jenna during her final days of preparation for the games.
From Ravenna, Ohio to Tokyo, Japan. What’s it feel like to represent your country in the Olympics?
JENNA: I am feeling very honored to represent my hometown and country in the Paralympics. Also by competing at the Paralympics, I am also honoring my community of family and friends who have supported me on this journey and get to celebrate all of the hard work it has taken me to get here. I am trying to soak in this experience and enjoy every moment.
What do you think about when you compete?
JENNA: I think about what splits I'm running, my speeds, my competitors and how to make the next move, and in between all of that, I try to spend a lot of my competition time in prayer and gratitude.
Your mom has been a driving force in your life, she told you at a young age: ‘Either you can take care of business or you can just sit down and cry about it. Take your pick.’ Has this been your motivation? What drives you during training?
JENNA: Yes-- That conversation with my mother was surely a defining point in my life. During training, I am driven by the continual challenges that wheelchair racing gives me. I joke with my friends and say that every day in the sport of wheelchair racing is extremely humbling. From climbing hills, flat tires, and the drive of my teammates during a workout, there is always room to grow and learn something new.
You’ve won many races and awards, and many aspiring athletes look up to you. At the end of the day, what do you hope they realize?
JENNA: I hope they realize that they, too will achieve whatever they set their mind to.
How do you unplug when you have a chance?
JENNA: My time outside of wheelchair racing is spent as a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as a graduate student studying Education, Policy, Organization, and Leadership. I am also a Resident Director on campus as well. So as you can imagine, there isn't too much time to unplug between homework assignments, projects, and serving the needs of our students on campus.
25 years from now, what do you think you will you remember about the summer of 2021?
JENNA: I hope to remember my perseverance and courage that went behind achieving my goal. I also hope to remember that the lessons I've learned up to this point will serve future generations as they pursue wheelchair racing.
It’s often said athletic competition is empowering, has competing helped empower you?
JENNA: Absolutely. I have received so many graces from the gift of competition. I am very thankful for my journey in sports and will forever be indebted to what sports has given me.
HOW TO FOLLOW JENNA'S JOURNEY
Jenna will be competing in three events at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo: The 5000 meter, 1500 meter, and the marathon. Her first event is scheduled for Thursday, August 26th. If she qualifies for the final, that will take place the next day.
She then competes in the 1500 meters, which happens Monday, August 30th, with the final set for the next day.
Jenna wraps up her competition on Saturday, September 4th, with the marathon.
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