Jenny Fletcher: from Model to Triathlete
By Tara R. McKee
Jenny Fletcher spent her teenage years straddling two different worlds: for a part of the year, she was a jet-setting model traveling around the world and during her summers she trained and competed with the Canadian team in junior (later, senior) World Modern Pentathlon competitions. Jenny had always been an athlete since her very early childhood in Red Deer, Alberta. She took on more sports than the average suburban child: dance, swimming, basketball, volleyball, track and field, riding horses and fencing. At age 15 she found the sport of modern pentathlon, an Olympic sports contest which includes five events running, swimming, pistol shooting and riding horse and epee fencing. She and her brother were very good at it, and would spend a few weeks each summer at a training camp in New Mexico. That same year, she was “discovered” by Mode Models, an international agency who soon had her flying off to Japan for her first shoot, clutching her fencing bag
Jenny had a great look, she was a tall brunette with a slim but athletic build and she was prominently featured in magazines in Europe and North America. On her trips to Europe, she continued to carry her air pistol and riding and fencing equipment and got in workouts when she could. At age 21, she met and married Arlynd Fletcher and “hung up the competiveness for awhile because so much was going on.” Yet it would have been against her nature to completely give up athletic pursuits, so she ran and became a “gym junkie” during their years in New York City. Her busy country childhood had only one drawback, she didn’t grow up with a bike. Her husband bought road bikes after their marriage and they started cycling. A friend of theirs encouraged them to sign up for a triathlon. It was her first and she cruised through it and did well and told herself; “I like this sport!”
Jenny continued to do both triathlons and modeling over the years and reached the elite amateur status a few years ago. She moved to California, got a new coach and prepared to make the giant leap from elite amateur to pro status. Turning pro meant that for the first time in Jenny’s life, she had to make a tough choice between her modeling career and her athletic one. Choosing the athletic career signaled a new turning point in her life: “I’ve modeled since I was 15, but this was always my dream and passion. I’m stepping out of that little comfort zone and trying. That for me is just a huge thing to just get out there and put yourself out into the unknown, but if you don’t do that you’ll always be wondering.”
I talked to her while she was in Noosa, Australia, where she had gone to train with other pro triathletes including a husband and wife team, Greg and Laura Bennett (a.k.a. Team Bennett). The tough workouts included swim workouts 6 days a week (“more meters than I’m used to”), as well as an early morning run or ride (or both) before the Australian sun was at its full strength. Her afternoons were spent on strength and flexibility training at the gym. She admits the workouts have her “struggling a bit” but notes how the schedule “forces you to take care of yourself” on what she is eating, how much sleep she is getting and whether she is getting in the proper recovery. She is working hard because as she states: “My goal isn’t just to be a pro, I care how I do, I want to be successful at it and see how I do.”
Jenny’s dream is to be able to someday compete in the Olympics, but she is well aware of how much she needs to accomplish to get there. 2010 is her “building year” and she will schedule in some races just for fun among the heavy world-cup-point building races. Ideally, she’d need five years as a pro to get to the point where she could be one of two or three triathletes representing Canada in the Olympics. “If I don’t make it to Olympics, it’s not a huge deal, but I’m trying. But I wouldn’t want to wonder what if…”
Jenny’s hero has been Gabrielle Reece, an Olympic volleyball legend who also had a modeling career. Jenny watched how Gabby had an amazing impact on other people’s lives and how she had a unique opportunity to speak to others and touch their hearts. For Jenny, behind the glamorous life as a model and a promising athletic career is a down-to-earth-girl with one true passion: “When it comes down to it, I would love to inspire women and young girls, that is more inspiring than winning races for me—watching other people’s lives change because you gave them something that helped them to dream.”
I think Jenny’s got it right!
What’s Next? Jenny will continue to focus on Olympic distance triathlons: “I love the fast, short and done-by-2 hours-race.” Her Pro debut will be at the 2010 Mazatlan ITU Triathlon Pan American Cup on March 20th. In an ITU race, that drafting on the bike is legal. She says, “If you are not out of the water in the first or second wave, you will be ‘swimming uphill’ on the bike.”
Jenny’s thoughts on the modeling world: She has seen the Sports Illustrated swimsuit editions change over the years from the curvy models, to the really skinny models, and sometimes having a few athletes during Olympic years. But she has wondered, “Where are the athletes in the modeling world?” She’d like to see more athlete/models that give a more suitable reality that there are healthy, fit people out there living a good life and not just the Hollywood actress/models.
You can see Jenny’s website here.