Jenny Fletcher is used to turning heads as a professional model.
Now, the 35-year-old beauty, originally from Red Deer, is grabbing attention on the professional triathlete circuit.
Speaking from her home in Los Angeles, Fletcher said a lot has changed in her life since she participated in the Canadian television version of ‘Deal or No Deal’, hosted by comic Howie Mandel.
In early 2007, the statuesque brunette was one of five women chosen in a nationwide open casting call for the popular game show.
She joined 21 professionally-hired models to hold onto metal briefcases that contestants would pick from.
Fletcher described the gig at the time as the highlight of her international modelling career.
“We were all having the times of our lives and we were really hoping it would continue,” said Fletcher.
But there was always more that Fletcher wanted to do in life.
She grew up being active in sports, including the modern pentathlon, which involves pistol shooting, épée fencing, 200-metre freestyle swimming, show jumping, and a three-km cross-country run.
“I am always interested in opportunities,” said Fletcher.
“A bunch of circumstances and situations opened doors that led me down this path I think I always wanted to go on.”
Her dream was to be like Gabrielle Reece, the attractive professional volleyball player who appeared on a number of fashion and fitness magazine covers in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Even at age 15, when she met modelling industry guru Eileen Ford in New York City, Fletcher’s desire to be an athlete was noticeable.
“I told her that I was a modern pentathlete and I wanted to do this and that,” said Fletcher. “And she told (her modelling scout) Kelly Streit that ‘This girl wants to be an athlete.’ And he said, ‘Well this girl can do both.’ ”
Almost 20 years later, her dream to combine modelling and professional sports was realized.
She began competing as an “elite amateur” in triathlons — swimming, cycling, and running in immediate succession over various distances. Triathlons work for her because she loves being outdoors and pushing her body, plus it involves getting good at a few sports, not just one.
In 2012, Fletcher will enter her third year as a professional triathlete. One of her proud accomplishments was qualifying for the Hy-Vee 5150 series race in September in Des Moines, Iowa.
“My favourite thing to do is the cycling and I feel like it’s my strength,” said Fletcher. “But pretty much to be a professional triathlete, you have to be good at everything otherwise you get clobbered.”
Some competitors may initially not take Fletcher seriously because of her looks. However, she trains hard daily with an elite squad under two-time world triathlon champion and coach Siri Lindley.
“Anyone who has raced with me during the last three years has given me respect. But at first it was, here is the pretty girl who gets all the sponsors. I had to earn it and prove my worth in being myself and going out there and standing in line with some people who have been in the Olympics.”
A number of her triathlete sponsors have hired her for their promotions, including sunglass and activewear company Oakley.
“I am the face of Oakley’s Perform Beautifully campaign and my favourite part is it says ‘Jenny Fletcher, professional triathlete’,” said Fletcher.
Fletcher, married to her husband of nearly 15 years, Arlynd, will return to the family farm near Red Deer for Christmas. Her parents, David and Cheryl Coates, are now semi-retired from chiropractic care. She also has a brother and sister, along with their families, living in Calgary.
Fletcher hopes to move into television one day where she can interview Olympian athletes and other top competitors. She’s already had some experience through ESPN the Magazine.
“I’ve actually had more fun being an athlete than my 20 years of modelling combined,” said Fletcher. “It’s been an amazing adventure.”