Chantal Petitclerc is Lou Marsh Trophy Winner

Ian C. Langtree Content Writer/Editor for Disabled World
Published: 2008/12/09 - Updated: 2010/06/28
Contents: Summary - Introduction - Main - Related

Synopsis: Chantal Petitclercs dominance in Beijing outshone other great performances from Canadian athletes.


Chantal Petitclerc (born December 15, 1969 in Saint-Marc-des-Carrieres, Quebec) is a Canadian wheelchair racer.

Main Digest

At the age of thirteen, she lost the use of both legs when a heavy barn door fell on her. Gaston Jacques, a high school physical education teacher, was to have a decisive influence on her life when he convinced her to try swimming to develop her physical strength and stamina. It was Petitclerc's first contact with sports and training.

When she was eighteen, Pierre Pomerleau, a trainer at Universite Laval in Quebec City, introduced her to wheelchair sports. Using a homemade wheelchair, she took part in her first race and came in dead last, well behind the other competitors. However, she had fallen in love with wheelchair racing and a long and fruitful career had begun.

While Petitclerc was developing her skills as a wheelchair athlete, she pursued her studies, first in social sciences at the Sainte-Foy College and then in history at the University of Alberta, where she registered in order to be able to train with Peter Eriksson, who remains her coach to this day.

Petitclerc capped a year of out-sized achievement today by winning the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada's top athlete. Named for a former Toronto Star sports editor, the award is voted on by sports journalists from across the country. Petitclerc is the award's 71st recipient since 1936.

For the first time, print and broadcast journalists have given a para-athlete Canada's top sporting honor for accomplishments on the field of play. Terry Fox and Rick Hansen have also been recipients of the Lou Marsh Award, but they won for their fund raising marathons which continue to inspire people around the world with annual events.

With five gold medals and three world records, Chantal Petitclerc's dominance in Beijing outshone other great performances from Canadian athletes who are Olympic medalists, world champions and professional hockey, baseball and basketball superstars.

Chelsey Walker, executive director of the Whistler Adaptive Sports Program (WASP), says Petitclerc's achievement is another sign that para-sports are moving forward in an exciting new direction. "Now the media and the general public recognize and are celebrating para-athletes as some of the best athletes in the world," Walker says.

Whistler Adaptive Sports Program (WASP) is experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity itself, and it's a case of being the right program in the right pace at the right time. The 2010 Paralympics in Whistler have helped fuel WASP's growth from small grassroots organization that helped people with disabilities learn to ski into a program that spans 10 sports helping first-timers and World Cup winners alike.

Walker credits the work of her predecessor Sian Blyth, as early on WASP was able to create a vision around 2010 and map out opportunities. Walker says they looked at everything from the use of the athletes' village and training center post-2010 to additional programming efforts and working with the RMOW to achieve deliverables relating to the Paralympics and adaptive sports.

The legacy use of accessibility-designed accommodation at the athletes' village and access to on- and off-snow training centers will provide WASP the opportunity to set the gold standard for adaptive sports programs for years to come.

Along with the long-term infrastructure that the Paralympics are providing, WASP is collaborating with the Whistler Nordics, Whistler Mountain Ski Club and other local organizations to deliver programs more efficiently. Walker says that has created a new operating model for adaptive sports programs.

These achievements have led to her receiving honors that include a Meritorious Service Medal (Civil Division) from the Governor General of Canada in 2003 as well as being named Canadian of the Year by Maclean's in 2004 and Woman of the Year by Chatelaine in 2005.

Chantal Petitclerc still has a challenge to meet though. Her dream is to see wheelchair racing recognized as an official sport at the Olympic Games.

With the municipality's accessibility improvements in the resort, and four-season programming including rock climbing and rowing, downhill and cross-country skiing and the potential of sliding sports coming on line, Whistler will be front and center when it comes to the next generation of sports heroes who, like Petitclerc, will inspire a nation and prove it's about ability, not disability.

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Cite This Page (APA): Langtree, I. C. (2008, December 9). Chantal Petitclerc is Lou Marsh Trophy Winner. Disabled World. Retrieved May 20, 2024 from

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