Canada’s top Paralympic athletes
They’ve not only accomplished incredible athletic feats, but have done so in the face of adversity. Get to know some of the talented and inspiring athletes who will be representing Canada in the London 2012 Paralympic Games
Participating in practically every sport while growing up, Michelle has always been passionate about athletics. At 17, when she fell off a friend’s back while piggyback riding, she was rendered quadriplegic-but even her injury couldn’t keep her away from sports for long. Now a competitive wheelchair racer, Michelle describes the feeling she gets while racing as “peaceful”. Her other passions (according to her Twitter) are helping people, and, of course, chocolate!
(Image: Michelle Stilwell official Facebook Page)
Beside a description of herself on Twitter, Cindy Ouellet has two simple, but powerful, words: Carpe Diem. They couldn’t be more appropriate. The Paralympic athlete began playing wheelchair basketball in 2005, has been a member of Team Canada since 2007 and participated in the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing, as well as the World Championships in Manchester. She definitely takes every chance she has to seize the day!
(Image: Cindy Ouellet’s official Twitter)
A Toronto schoolteacher and Paralympic rower, Victoria Nolan was 18 when she was diagnosed with an eye condition called retinitis pigmentosa (RP) that restricted her vision. The birth of her first child further deteriorated her vision by half, followed by a decrease to just 3 percent of her total vision when her second child was born. Luckily, in her sport of choice-rowing-Nolan doesn’t need her eyes. Instead, she rows by feel. It may sound impossible, but it seems to work for her. In 2010, she and her crew won gold at the World Rowing Championships in New Zealand. She also competed in the 2008 Summer Paralympics in Beijing.
Her thoughts on her disability? It won’t get in her way. According to her Twitter, “When I lost my sight I turned to sport to overcome my disability. Now, blindness can’t catch me as I chase a medal in 2012.”
(Image: Victoria Nolan official Twitter)
After a car accident left him with a spinal cord injury, Simard discovered wheelchair rugby in rehabilitation. Since he started playing, he’s won silver at the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games and bronze at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games. As he explains on the Canadian Paralympic Committee’s YouTube Channel, Simard doesn’t like to spend a day without sitting in his rugby chair to train or play-and when he does, he misses it, as he truly loves the sport.
(Image: Canadian Paralympic Committee)
Not only has Robbi Weldon competed at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Paralympic Games (and established herself as Canada’s top female Para-Nordic skier) she has also competed in cycling. Along with her team, she won gold in the 80km Road Race and silver in the 22km Time Trail at the 2010 UCI Road Para-cycling World Championships-no mean feat for someone who is legally blind. Diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease when she was 15-years-old, Weldon permanently lost her central vision. This hasn’t stopped her from participating in the sports she loves though. In fact, according to her website, being active “was a crucial part of my life that helped me get through the tough times of dealing with vision loss.”
(Image: Robbi Weldon’s official website)
Growing up in the water, Mortimer was already a competitive swimmer before a trampoline accident left her with no range of motion in her feet. After her accident, she transitioned to Para-swimming to help her with rehabilitation-and it paid off. She’s now the world record holder in the 50 freestyle, 100 freestyle, 50 backstroke, 100 backstroke and 200 backstroke. Multi-talented, Mortimer is also a published children’s book illustrator-for the stories that her twin sister, Julia, writes.
(Image: Canadian Paralympic Committee)
When Diane Roy lost the use of her legs in an ATV accident in her teens, she thought her involvement in sports was over for good. But when a friend convinced her to try wheelchair racing, that mindset changed. She’s now been competing for 18 years, has won numerous awards, and is truly in love with the sport.
(Image: Diane Roy’s official website)
Four years after a skiing accident in 1994 left him paralyzed from the waist down. Tingley began sailing with the disabled team in Victoria, B.C. He’s now one of the top solo sailors in the world-even when competing against able-bodied contestants.
(Image: Canadian Paralympic Foundation)