While many high schoolers are focusing on college applications and seeking acceptance letters to the schools of their dreams, 16-year-old, Ezra Frech, travels across the world to fulfill his own dream, seeking a moment on the podium and hoping to leave with hardware around his neck.
Due to a congenital abnormality, Frech was born with a curved left leg and only one finger on his left hand. Doctors had to amputate his leg at 11 months, replacing it with the prosthetic limb with which he competes today.
Nevertheless, this teenage athlete is no stranger to success. Frech has had many triumphs including a gold medal at the 2019 Nottwil World Junior Championships in Men’s high jump T63 event, another gold in Men’s long jump T63 and a silver medal in Men’s 100m T63.
This said, America was eager to watch Ezra represent Team USA in the high jump and long jump in Tokyo.
Frech made his debut on Aug. 28 at 3:51 am PST in the long jump competition where he placed 8th overall, just inches away from an American record in this event.
Ezra then turned his focus on his main event, the high jump, that took place Aug. 31 at 3:25 PST in the Olympic Village. Falling just short of the podium by mere centimeters, the 16-year-old finished 4th in the competition.
Regardless of the outcome, this track star is not discouraged but hungry for more after he posted on his Instagram hours after this gut-wrenching loss.
“This one sure is a tough pill to swallow, but I will bounce back. The plot thickens. Now begins the road to Paris 2024,” Frech said.
However, despite his achievements, this Paralympian was ashamed of his own disabilities at one time.
“When I was younger, I didn’t really joke about my disability. I was in a school where I was the only kid with a disability. I sort of had a ‘why me’ mentality and with age I realized that I was born this way,” he said.
Now, this track athlete tours the country as a motivational speaker hoping to be a role model for the younger generations who are unsure if their disability will impair their chances of success.
Frech recalls his favorite memory of the 2016 Paralympics when he was 11, having the chance to meet his heroes in the sport.
“It was this moment when the universe told me, this is what you’re meant to do, as I’m now coming to these track meets and talking to the little kids. Five years ago, I was that little kid,” he remarked.
This full circle moment reminded him of his first experience at a triathlon that his parents took him to when he was just six months old. Rudy Garcia-Tolson was a 16-year-old swimmer at the time and had just qualified for his first Paralympic games in Greece.
Tolson was born with popliteal pterygium syndrome, causing him to have a club foot, webbed fingers on both hands and an inability to straighten his legs. Starting from a wheelchair at the age of 5, undergoing 15 operations and a double amputee of his legs later, he defied the odds and finally made it to the Olympic pool.
“It was huge for my parents to meet another person who had a similar disability. They saw this teenager who just had his stuff figured out. He was cool. He was walking on two prosthetic legs. He helped show my parents that it was possible for me to be active and live a happy, normal life,” Ezra said.
Given Ezra’s level of competition, his family wanted to ensure that he was competing with the most advanced prosthetics. The goal of this technology is to match the athlete’s body so that both perform at their fullest potential.
“How can we make this leg help me become the fastest, the highest and farthest jumper within the boundaries of the Paralympics? It’s so cool,” he beamed.
These precautions are imperative as Frech is known to post videos on his Instagram of him doing one-legged box jumps that are 54 inches high.
In addition to motivational speaking, Ezra has also partnered with the non-profit organization, Angel City Sports. This organization offers a league of disability sports teams with adaptive equipment across Southern California targeting children and veterans.
Nonetheless, one important thing to remember is that Ezra is still a kid. The athlete made one last post about his remarkable time in Tokyo choosing his last words to be those of Theodore Roosevelt.
“At the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”