Broadview Heights native Jen French will compete in 2012 Paralympic Games

Jen FrenchView full size Broadview Heights native Jen French and her partner J.P. Creignou in the water at the Olympic Classes Regatta in Miami in January. French and Creignou will head to the Paralympic Games later this year. A former Broadview Heights resident has achieved her dream of competing with the U.S. Sailing Team Paralympics in the 2012 summer games in London.

By successfully completing two Olympic team trials — the International Association of Disabled Sailing world qualifying event in Port Charlotte, Fla. and the Olympic Classes Regatta in Miami in January — the sailing team of Jen French and J.P. Creignou will participate in the two-person Scud 18 class in the Paralympic Games.

French, a former Sun News carrier and Brecksville-Broadview Heights Honeybee, is the helmsman and Creignou is the sail trimmer and tactician on the two-person crew. Following first- and second-place finishes in sailing regattas this summer, French and Creignou prepared for the two qualifying events this January.

The duo won silver in their 18-foot skiff at the IFDS worlds that consisted of three Paralympic classes with eight boats from five countries. At OCR, the team won a bronze medal in the Scud 18 class, which included three Paralympic classes and all Olympic classes, with six boats representing five countries.

Their placement was among the best for the U.S., thus qualifying the team for the U.S. Sailing Team Paralympics.

“I will be representing the Scud 18 class,” French explained. “The U.S. can only send one scud team, one skeel, and one 2.4 — there can be no duplicates within classes.”

French said the qualifying races involved six days of racing at Port Charlotte and five days in Miami. Although the target time was 90 minutes, said French, they still had to prep for an hour and sail out to the course, which was about an hour from port. Because they were out for some time, they encountered varying sailing conditions.

The achievement of getting a spot on the U.S. Sailing Team has been the result of a great deal of work and sailing by the team.

This effort is much more remarkable given the unique disabilities of French and Creignou. French is mostly paralyzed by a snowboarding injury that partially severed her spinal cord at C6-7. Creignou is legally blind.

“We’ve been building up to this for the last two years,” said French. “We’ve been racing all the other events as a gauge for the trials in order to win them.”

Sailing events for the Paralympic Games, Aug. 29 through Sept. 9 in London, will be held at Weymouth Bay.

“There are 12 countries in our classes with only three classes in the Paralympics,” French said.

French and Creignou will prepare for the Paralympics by going over to Weymouth in the spring to practice sailing.

“Based on what we saw In May and June of this last year, we expect cold water, cold conditions, and breezy,” French said.

The U.S. Sailing Team for the Paralympics has team physicians and physical therapists that are trained to work with the disabled athletes. Making the team means a lot to French, who said the team is planning to train and race in a couple of regattas in Europe.

She is hoping her team gets a podium position to start. “It’s back to the drawing board, getting the equipment ready and training to prepare to compete against the rest of the world,” she said.

She acknowledged the support of her husband Tim and her mother Susan Loughrey, of Richfield.

“My husband has been watching and doing the math, and the spouses are a big part of whole campaign,” said French. “I know Mom must be pretty proud.”

“We sat down with teammates and spouses and decided to put together the campaign,” said French. “This is the culmination of a lot of time, effort, and money, with the final goal to win a medal at the games. It’s a very big milestone for us. All that work has culminated in sweet success.”

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