Islanders in London for Games

Michelle Stilwell is the face of the Paralympics in the mid-Island

NANAIMO — Michelle Stilwell is, without a doubt, the face of the Paralympic Games around these parts. It’s a face that’s invariably smiling, and if all goes to plan, she may soon have two more gold medals to smile about.

The 38-year-old mother from Nanoose Bay is in London this month to compete in her third Paralympic Games.

She won her first gold medal in Sydney in 2000 as part of Canada’s wheelchair basketball team. She had to give up hoops for health reasons, and has since excelled on the track, qualifying for the 2008 Games in Beijing and winning gold in both the 100-metre and 200m races.

So she’s a triple gold medallist. She holds world records in all her events. She’s a hall of famer and indisputably a fan favourite.

And yet she won’t ease off. Just the opposite, in fact.

“I just love a challenge, so every time I can shave a few hundredths of a second off the time, it shows me that the work I’m putting in is worth it, and there’s value there,” Stilwell said.

She said leading up to the London Games, her training has been “absolutely fantastic.” She made alterations to her push technique, her diet, and even her race chair. A whole bunch of little changes, she said, have combined to bring incredible results. At a meet in Switzerland in May, Stilwell lowered her own world records to 19 seconds in the 100m and 34.08 seconds in the 200m. Two months later in Windsor, Ont., she lowered her 100m record again to 18.67.

She keeps shaving off milliseconds, but that’s not her primary goal, she said.

“I’m never focused on trying to beat the clock, I’m really focused on the technique and the performance,” Stilwell said. “I know that if I push properly and don’t make any mistakes, it’s a flawless race, the result will come in the end.”

If she’s done the training, then it will show on race day, she said. In front of 25 friends and family members in London, Stilwell will wheel to the start line with a specific idea of how the race will go.

She’s won enough big races to know how to execute a game plan, no matter the environment.

“If you can plan the race and race the plan, good things will happen,” she said. “Of course you have to be somewhat flexible for the unexpected. You can’t totally let the unexpected throw you off your game.”

She’s pretty familiar with the field of competitors she will see in London in her T52 division, and goes in as the favourite. Maybe she’ll win double gold again. Maybe she’ll win double gold again, and be even better.

“If I push myself hard enough, I know there’s room for improvement. So I’m going to keep doing that…” she said. “I always know that you can do better.”

GAMES ON

Michelle Stilwell races the 200m on Saturday (Sept 1). Qualifying is at 7:51 a.m. PST with the finals at 12:24 p.m. She then races the 100m Sept. 5 with heats at 2:24 a.m., final at 1:36 p.m.

Tony Theriault, a mixed fours rower from Nanaimo, has his first heat at 3:30 a.m. on Friday (Aug. 31) and the finals are Sept. 2 at 2:30 a.m.

Parksville’s Trevor Hirschfield is on the Canadian wheelchair rugby team, which plays their opening game on Sept. 5.

— Nanaimo News Bulletin/Black Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ballenas Whalers clinch Island high school girls hoop championship

Parksville squad advances to AAA provincials in Langley

Parksville chamber names finalists for annual business awards

Parksville-Qualicum Community Foundation to receive Community Spirt Award

PQB crime report: Thieves pilfer safe, flare gun, even a walker

Oceaside RCMP deal with 196 complaints in one-week span

Pipeline dispute: Tories put no-confidence motion on House of Commons agenda

Conservatives say they have no confidence in the Trudeau government to end the rail blockades

A&W employees in Ladysmith get all-inclusive vacation for 10 years of service

Kelly Frenchy, Katherine Aleck, and Muriel Jack are headed on all-expenses-paid vacations

Five vehicles crash on the highway in Nanaimo, one rolls over

No one injured in collision Wednesday on Highway 19A near Norwell Drive and Jingle Pot Road

Original Victoria Clipper vessel sails one last time

Vessel sold to buyers in Gabon, Central Africa

Nanaimo man wins lotto, plans to buy $16,000 fridge

Curtis Wright a winner in Lotto 6/49 draw

B.C.’s soda drink tax will help kids lose weight, improve health, says doctor

Dr. Tom Warshawski says studies show sugary drinks contribute to obesity

B.C. mom’s complaint about ‘R word’ in children’s ministry email sparks review

In 2020, the ‘R’ word shouldn’t be used, Sue Robins says

Two new hybrid BC Ferries ships christened with new names in Victoria ceremony

Island Aurora and Island Discovery will service Gulf Island and North Island routes

B.C., federal ministers plead for meeting Wet’suwet’en dissidents

Scott Fraser, Carolyn Bennett says they can be in Smithers Thursday

Most Read