Story 34: Athletics
We’ve already heard how the WC Race Series and various developmental programs make it easier for today’s wheelchair racers to excel. Even without these programs, however, BC has produced several talented para-athletics athletes in its 40+ years. In fact, the wheelchair racing program in BC gave rise to Canada’s two most famous disabled athletes: Terry Fox and Rick Hansen.
Today, Paralympic wheelchair racers like Michelle Stilwell and Kelly Smith call BC home and there are many up-and-coming athletes training hard every day to make it on an international stage. Field events are also gaining in popularity thanks to the recent purchase of specialized equipment. And though BCWSA only sent one athlete to the recent IPC Athletics World Championships, developmental programs and initiatives like Bridging the Gap are ensuring that there will be more in the future.
Profile – Michelle Stilwell
Michelle “Mikey” Stilwell started her career as a wheelchair basketball player. She represented Canada at the 2000 Sydney Paralympics in wheelchair basketball, winning gold and becoming the first quadriplegic woman to do so. When she was forced to retire from wheelchair basketball for medical reasons, she made a move into wheelchair racing and her golden career continued. At the 2008 Beijing Paralympics, Mikey won gold and broke Paralympic records in both the 100 and 200m sprints. At the recent IPC World Championships in New Zealand, Mikey brought home three gold medals and one silver and broke three world championship records! Mikey lives in Nanoose Bay with her husband and her son Kai.
Here is a slideshow of wheelchair athletics in BC over the years: