The countdown for the opening ceremonies is on, and world champion wheelchair racer Michelle Stilwell is stoked.
Oceanside’s most decorated Paralympian will be rolling up to the line on Saturday for her first event at the IPC (International Paralymipic Committee) Athletics 2011 World Championships, slated for for Christchruch, New Zealand Jan. 21-30.
Michelle, or Mikey to her friends, family and fans, will be competing in the 100m, 200m, 400m, and 800m on the 22nd, 24th, 26th, and 28th consecutively.
Mikey has been in New Zeland training since December, and sounded as confident as ever when The News caught up with her on the weekend.
The championships will take place at QEII stadium built specifically for the 1974 Commonwealth Games as the venue for the athletics and swimming as well as the opening and closing ceremonies
Around 1,200 athletes and some 900 officials are expected to attend as well as an additional 40 international officials (classifiers, medical and doping, and Athletics). Team Canada consists of 30 athletes; the World Championships is the main qualifier for the London 2012 Paralympic Games. All the athletes and staff are staying at various hotels around Christchurch — Mikey is at the Millennium hotel in the heart of the city.
Every athlete in attendance had to qualify to be there. In Mikey’s case, she secured her fist qualifying times in Australia in January of 2010.
Mikey recounted how she was “having an incredible season” until the end of June, when, after breaking the World Records in the 100m and 200m for the second time (and only seven-one-hundredths of a second off the 400m world record) while in Switzerland, “that I ended up on an emergency flight back to Canada and spent all of July and August on bed rest before having spinal surgery (again) at the end of August.”
“I have been training hard now since October with two sessions a day to be sure I can be ready for next week,” she said, pointing out, “it doesn’t matter how many other girls are in the race … what matters is that I am focused on doing better than I have ever done before.
“I train not only to stay ahead of my competitors but to make sure I do better than ever before when it comes to race time,” she said adding, “I am focusing on the performance and not the outcome — this is another stepping stone to London 2012.”