Ezra Frech is a paralympian, disability rights advocate and motivational speaker. And he’s only 16 years old. In 2021, the Persian Jewish athlete is off to Tokyo for his first Paralympic Games as part of the track and field squad. Here are 18 things to know about the remarkable Ezra Frech:
1. Ezra Frech was born in Los Angeles, California, in May 2005, to Jewish parents. (Making him a Taurus!) When he was born, due to a congenital abnormality, Ezra only had one finger on his left hand, and he was completely missing his left knee and shinbone.
2. At 11 months old, he received his first prosthetic leg. When he was 2, he had surgery to remove the curved part of his leg, and his toe was put on his hand.
3. His mom, Bahar Soomekh, is a Persian Jewish actress. You may know her from her roles in the Oscar-winning film “Crash” (2004) or the “Saw” franchise (mainly “Saw III,” 2006). “I think Judaism has enriched my life and developed who I am. I hope to instill in my family a belief in tikkun olam. One of my dreams is to bring attention to environmental and children’s issues,” Bahar said. Here’s Bahar at the 2006 Oscars:
4. Let’s talk about the Soomekh family briefly. Bahar was born in Tehran, Iran, in 1974, but fled Iran when she was 5 years old to escape the 1979 Islamic Revolution of Iran. Bahar’s family settled in Los Angeles. Ezra’s aunt — Bahar’s sister — Saba Soomekh is a Jewish studies scholar, focusing on “World Religions, Women and Religion, intersectionality and its impact on the Jewish community, and the geo-politics of the Middle East.” Here’s the matriarch of the Soomekh family, Manijeh, with Ezra:
And here’s Saba and Ezra:
5. In 2001, Bahar married Clayton Frech, a business manager who converted to Judaism. (Both Bahar and Clayton are incredibly cheesy about Ezra’s success on Instagram, as proud Jewish parents should be, but we will get to that later. Meanwhile, here’s a fantastic story on how they met at the San Francisco airport.) They have three children: Ezra, Gabriel and Elijah.
6. Ezra’s first word was not “mama” or “dada,” but “ball” — he always loved sports. Growing up, he played basketball, baseball, soccer and karate. He got into track and field when he was 8 years old.
7. “Everywhere you go, people don’t think you’re capable of what an able-bodied person can do,” he says. “I’ll go to my high school track meet and they don’t expect the one-legged kid to go out and win the competition. When I was younger it got to me, but now it’s a motivation and excites me that I have a chance to prove people wrong, to shock them and turn some heads.”
8. In 2013, his dad, Clayton, founded Angel City Sports alongside Ezra — a foundation that provides year-round free adaptive sports opportunities for kids and adults with physical disabilities or visual impairments.
“Ezra was mainstream in sports for a really long time, playing a lot of basketball but also flag football and soccer and whatever else he could try,” Ezra’s dad said. “But he started track pretty early. We went out to the Endeavor Games – an adaptive sport competition – when he was 8 years old. It was out on the track at the Endeavor Games on a Sunday afternoon when I just asked the question – ‘why do we have to come to Oklahoma to run, jump, throw things, to do Paralympic sports?’ That was in 2013, and I was on a mission after that – chasing down officials and people who knew how to run meets, everything we needed to bring a Games to Los Angeles.”
9. He was on “The Ellen Show” in 2014 sharing his story:
The same year, he was named a Sports Illustrated SportsKid of the Year finalist.
10. At the 2019 World Para Athletics Championships, he was the youngest athlete in the world to compete, competing in the high jump, long jump and the 100m. He was just 14.
11. “The confidence came from sports, and thinking, ‘What’s the point of sulking in sadness, and feeling sorry for myself? I can’t change the situation. My leg isn’t growing back, so I might as well make the most of my life,'” Frech said.
12. In 2021, he qualified for the Paralympics in Tokyo alongside his close friend Sam Grewe, another paralympian.
13. Ready for some incredible posts from his parents? Here’s what his mom Bahar wrote after he qualified: “I look at pics of you as a little munchkin and then now in trials for the Paralympics and I’m bursting! I can’t put into words how much joy, pride, love, excitement, and gratitude I have in my heart!”
Here’s his dad, Clayton, writing about the bittersweet news of not being able to go to Tokyo with Ezra due to limitations from the pandemic:
Also, follow Ezra, obvs (@teamezra05):
15. He is an LA28 Creator, one of 32 ambassadors for the 2028 Olympic & Paralympic Games. As an #LA28Creator, he designed his own LA 2028 logo. His features a prosthetic leg. Watch his explanation:
16. Here’s his USA prosthetic leg:
17. “Training for the Olympics is surreal. It’s something I’ve dreamed of since I was 4 years old,” he says. “And I’m in a position to compete on the biggest stage in the world, and it would be foolish for me to let this golden opportunity to pass me by. And I’m the underdog. I’m the youngest guy on the entire circuit. I have to work my way up.”
18. As he said: “I want to be a multi medalist in Tokyo in 2021. That’s my goal. You can quote me on this: I will be a multi medalist when I walk away from Tokyo. We can look back after the Games and I’ll say – ‘I called it.’”
We’re cheering you on, Ezra!
Bonus: A custom Ezra Frech trading card, just for you!!