Frenette hopes to soar in Sochi
Peter Frenette was a 17-year-old Saranac Lake High School senior when he made the Olympic team that competed in Canada four years ago.
While he had jumped well on the Continental Cup circuit and put down a top-20 finish at the final competition before the Olympics, few people had expected him to make such a big leap so soon in his career.
“We were not expecting it this year,” his mother Jennie Frenette told the Enterprise in January 2010, after learning her son was headed to Vancouver. “He was very lucky to be in the right place at the right time.”
Looking back at that experience, Frenette said he was just happy to be there.
“It was one of the first higher-level competitions of my career,” ‘he said. “I had never jumped in a World Cup. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I was able to qualify, which is big for me.
“I almost made the final round on the big hill. I was 32nd, which is really good for me at that age. It was a great learning experience and kind of a pushing-off point.”
Four years later, the now 21-year-old is a veteran of the World Cup jumping circuit. Is he feeling more pressure as he heads to his second Olympics in Sochi, Russia?
“I don’t feel too much pressure at all,” he said. “I mean, I’m not really a medal favorite going into it. I’m just going to try to jump as well as I can and see what happens. I think a top 20 would be a good result for me. But anything can happen. Who knows, maybe I could get a little lucky and make the top 10.”
Frenette began skiing at an early age and took his first jumps when he was 6 years old. He’s one of many local athletes who has benefitted from living so close to Lake Placid, home to the venues of the 1980 Winter Olympics, including the towering ski jumps built for those games.
One of his earliest memories of jumping, Frenette said, was on a small, 18-meter hill. He had difficulty negotiating the bar that jumpers are supposed to sit on before going down the inrun to the jump.
“I could never get on the bar starts when I was really young, and I was terrified of it,” Frenette said. “I went to slide onto the bar, fell off and was holding on. From then on, I didn’t get on a bar for a couple years. I just went from the very top.
“Back then we were just on alpine skis, walking up, jumping and doing that over and over again for hours each day.”
Frenette continued to train and compete: first regionally, then on the national level. He said he was in high school when he realized that he could compete with the best in the world.
“I won a Super Tour event, which is a national event in the United States,” he said. “Then I realized, ‘Wow, I could potentially make the 2010 Olympic team. I’ve beaten all these guys before.’ It became a reality around 10th or 11th grade.”
Frenette has yet to make the podium on the World Cup tour. His best individual results include an 18th place in January 2011 in Sapporo, Japan, and a 20th place, also in Japan, in March of last year. One might think that failing to crack the top 10 for so long would be frustrating, but Frenette says, “It drives me.
“I know I can jump as well as the top guys,” he said. “It’s just really close. The tiniest little differences can make 10 meters. And it’s so close these days where 3 meters can be from first place to 40th place. The tiny little things make a big difference.”
Frenette said his Olympic dreams could not have been realized without the moral and financial support of people in his community, and of his parents.
“When I was younger, my mom would drive us to practice every day,” he said. “She’d have to leave work early sometimes to bring me over to Lake Placid. Back when I was paying for everything, they were paying for everything. It’s been a ton of money, time and commitment. If my parents weren’t so supportive, I probably would have stopped jumping in high school.”
Beyond Sochi, how long does Frenette see himself continuing to jump?
“If I can keep competing well, getting better and progressing, that’s the biggest thing,” he said. “If I can keep following that trajectory, I’d like to keep doing it.”