Parksville-Qualicum Beach MLA Michelle Stilwell has returned home after a successful trip to Toronto for the 2015 Parapan Am Games.
Stilwell, who competed in both the 100 and 800 metre events, was able to bring home a gold medal in the 100-metre event and set a Parapan Am Games record with her time of 2.22.90 in the 800-metre event (T52) as well.
“What an experience,” Stilwell said back in office. “It was such a wonderful event put on in Toronto. The folks there did a fantastic job with everything that was going on, the entire event was very well organized and everyone had such a great time being there. Being able to race in front of your country, having the results that Canada had and setting attendance records for the Parapan Am Games was just an amazing thing to be a part of.”
Stilwell finished off her first event, the 100-metre race, with a time of 19.58 seconds, which was just under a second off of the world record time she set back in 2012. The event looked like it was going to take place in the rain but moments before athletes were set to take the track; the rain stopped and held off for the event.
“We weren’t sure what would happen with that one,” Stilwell said. “All the athletes use an adhesive which helps give us a bit of extra push in the rain. So the rain stopped just after we decided to put it on and it made it tough on those first couple of pushes out of the gate. It was still a good race though and I’m very happy I was able to bring home a gold medal in front of my country.”
In the 800-metre event, Stilwell finished in eigth place but managed to set a Parapan Am Games record for her time of 2.22.90, which is the top time for a T52 competitor in Parapan Am Games history.
“I felt it was a great race,” Stilwell said. “It was exactly what I anticipated. I ran in the category above, so the girls I was racing against had more upper body function that I do so I knew that I had no hope of finishing on the podium but I was able to have a great race regardless. I was only a little ways off of getting in to the draft with the rest of the pack, so it was a very good race for me.”
Stilwell was the only T52, a competitor with limited upper body function, racing against T53 athletes, who have full function of their upper body. Now that the Parapan Am Games have finished and with Rio 2016 one year away, Stilwell said she will now use her off-work, athletics time to attempt qualification for the Canadian Paralympic team.
“We’ve got the World Championships in October,” Stilwell said. “If all goes well and I can work it in to my busy schedule, I’d like to be there to bring back another first place finish and be able to represent my country in Rio.”