My Vancouver – Then & Now: Jessica Kruger

Jessica Kruger, Wheelchair Rugby Athlete & Ambassador | Photo: Erin Wild Photography

Jessica Kruger, Wheelchair Rugby Athlete & Ambassador | Photo: Erin Wild Photography

My Vancouver Then & Now Series – Introduction

As one of the most desirable cities in the world in which to live, Vancouver has played a pivotal role in the destinies of many athletes, performers and creative minds.  Whether as a stepping stone at the beginning of their long careers (Academy Award –winner Jim Erickson); a safe harbour for immigrants to start again (Prima Ballerina, Chan Hon Goh ) or reaching the pinnacle of their life’s work here ( NHL’s ‘Captain Canuck’, Trevor Linden, ) the celebrated personalities of this new Inside Vancouver Series by Laura Goldstein, all have one thing in common:  MY VANCOUVER THEN & NOW is immeasurably in their hearts.

Jessica Kruger

Slammed from the side by a 200-lb male opponent, she is tipped precariously sideways, still clutching the ball with her chest while trying to right her equilibrium. Crashing to the floor could mean a broken wrist –a hindrance for her team and in her new role as Ambassador and new face of Canadian Cosmetics giant, Lise Watier’s Something Sweet Perfume campaign.

At 21, Jessica Kruger is the youngest member and only female on the B.C. Provincial Wheelchair Rugby Team. Known as ‘murderball’ because of its aggressive, full contact nature, most players are medically classified as quadriplegic to compete. Developed in Canada in 1977, it’s played in over 20 countries worldwide and a Paralympic Sport, something that Kruger aspires to represent Canada at in the future.

Currently a 4th year English major at Simon Fraser University and a compelling spokeswoman for Vancouver’s Rick Hansen Foundation, the Coquitlam native was introduced to the game by her mentor, Duncan Campball, one of the inventors of the sport and she remembers her immediate reaction:

“So, let me get this straight, “ I said. “It’s encouraged to smash into the other team’s players? Even if that means sending them (along with their rugby wheelchairs) flying backwards through the air and eventually thudding to the very unforgiving solid, gym floor? Sounds like fun!”

Having always played sports, (“as a kid my parents and sister and I sailed around the world for four years,”) Kruger became a quadriplegic when she was just 15. While working a summer job as an exterior house painter, she fainted and fell off a ladder from the second storey of a home. A CT scan showed Kruger’s neck was broken in four places, and she was told she would never walk again. Paralyzed from the armpits down, Kruger still has some function in her arms, but her right hand is weak.

Recently Kruger had the opportunity to train with athletes from the National Wheelchair Rugby Team; Ian Chan, Travis Murao, Trevor Hirschfield and Fabien Lavoie gave Kruger tremendous confidence to train and succeed to reach the next level.

“Wheelchair rugby has proven to be a lot of things for me,” admits Kruger. “At first it was a challenge – a way to prove to myself that my injury would not stop me from living my life. I played sports before my accident, and I was determined to play them again.  If there is one thing you need to know about me, it would probably be that I am stubborn to no end!”

Then, as a lark, several of Kruger’s friends encouraged her to enter Lise Watier Cosmetics’ 2013 Search for the Face of Something Sweet campaign. “It became an awesome opportunity to educate the public on women and girls excelling with or without a disability, says Kruger.”

Lise Watier Something Sweet Perfume | Photo: Shayne Laverdière.

Lise Watier Something Sweet Perfume | Photo: Shayne Laverdière.

Out of 400 contestants the effervescent dynamo was selected by both a social media vote and industry judges. As the 2013 Ambassador endorsing Something Sweet for the next year through magazine ads partnering with Shoppers Drug Mart, Kruger will also make in-store appearances planned later in Vancouver and Toronto.

What do the guys on her wheelchair rugby team think of her Something Sweet win? “Oh they tease me all the time,” laughs Kruger, “ But I know they’re proud of me!”

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