Michelle Stilwell reacts after setting a new Paralympics record while winning the 200-metre T52 women's final at the London 2012 Games.

Stilwell earns fourth Paralympic berth

Parksville-Qualicum MLA heads to Rio next month with No. 1 world ranking in wheelchair sprints

Next month may mark Michelle Stilwell’s fourth Paralympic Games, but she doesn’t take her selection to Team Canada for granted.

Nor is it starting to get boring.

“No, never,” Stilwell said with a laugh after being named last week to Canada’s 24-member athletics delegation to the Sept. 7-18 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. “I’m one of those crazy athletes who loves to train. The competition is just the icing on the cake.”

That cake has gotten plenty sweet.

Stilwell, now 42 and a cabinet minister as the Parksville Qualicum MLA for the B.C. Liberal government, swept to gold in the women’s T52 100 and 200 metre sprints in the 2008 Beijing Games, setting a Paralympic record in the process.

In London in 2012, she repeated in the 200, lowering her Games record in the process, but settled for silver in the 100, 11 hundredths of a second behind Belgium’s Marieke Vervoort in a result that still rankles.

“That’s the reason I’m going to Rio,” she said.

Stilwell’s Paralympic record in the 200 metres will stand for at least four more years — the race is not being held in this year’s Games. Instead, she will race at 100 and 400 metres in Rio.

Also a multiple world champion, and the world record-holder at 100, 200 and 800 metres, Stilwell actually got her start on Canada’s gold medal-winning women’s wheelchair basketball team at the Sydney Games in 2000.

After retiring as a basketball player to start her family and coach the sport, she met Peter Lawless, a national team coach who convinced Stillwell to take up racing on the track.

The rest is history, and it’s a history Stilwell, ranked No. 1 in the world, is happy to continue making as a member of Team Canada.

“For me, it’s been an incredible journey surrounded by incredible people who laughed with me, cried with me and cheered me on,” she said. “I’m excited to put the maple leaf on and represent not only Oceanside, but British Columbia and, of course, Canada.”

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