Michelle Stilwell reacts to a gold-medal victory at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing. Stilwell is in London to compete in her third Paralympics.

Michelle Stilwell reacts to a gold-medal victory at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing. Stilwell is in London to compete in her third Paralympics.

Our Olympians: Wheelchair racer going for more gold

Michelle Stilwell of Nanoose Bay is a favourite going into her third Paralympic Games.

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,” Michelle 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 … The 2012 Paralympic Games will begin Wednesday (Aug. 29) in London with opening ceremonies. 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. Look for more on Theriault in an upcoming issue of the News Bulletin. … To see a photo of Stilwell and Theriault from the Liftoff to London event earlier this summer, please click here.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com

Just Posted

Janice Coady, left, Aimee Chalifoux and Linda Milford at a vigil for Amy Watts on Wednesday, June 16, outside Nanaimo city hall. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
‘We need to do better,’ says mother of woman who was killed in Nanaimo

Vigil held for former outreach worker Amy Watts, whose body was found downtown June 3

The B.C. Ministry of Education has announced close to $44 million for the province’s schools for COVID-19 recovery. (News Bulletin file)
Nanaimo-Ladysmith school stakeholders say COVID-19 recovery funding can make a difference

B.C. Ministry of Education announces it expects a ‘near-normal’ return to class in September

Nanaimo artist Melissa Anderson has paintings on display at White Rabbit Coffee Co. for the next month. (Josef Jacobson/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo painter showcases coastal Island views in first exhibit in two years

Melissa Anderson presents ‘Seascapes’ oil painting exhibit at White Rabbit Coffee Co.

New COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island by local health area for the week of June 6-12. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control image)
New COVID-19 cases up on Island, but health officials say trends going right way

There were 22 new COVID-19 cases in Greater Victoria last week after just four the week before

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

The Co-op gas station at Whiskey Creek is burning after a camper van exploded while refueling just before 4 p.m. on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (FACEBOOK PHOTO)
Exploding camper van torches Highway 4 gas station between Qualicum Beach and Port Alberni

Highway traffic blocked after Whiskey Creek gas station erupts into flames

Helen Austin performing with Trent Freeman at the 2018 Vancouver Island MusicFest. Austin is one of the many performers listed for the 2021 event.
Vancouver Island MusicFest goes virtual for 2021

Black Press to stream 25 hours of programming July 9-11

Greater father involvement in the home leads to improved childhood development and increased marital satisfaction, says expert. (Black Press Media file photo)
Vancouver Island researcher finds lack of father involvement a drag on gender equality

Working women still taking on most child and household duties in Canada: UVic professor

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

The first suspension bridge is the tallest in Canada, with a second suspension bridge just below it. The two are connected by a trail that’s just over 1 km. (Claire Palmer photo)
PHOTOS: The highest suspension bridges in Canada just opened in B.C.

The Skybridge in Golden allows visitors to take in views standing at 130 and 80 metres

Most Read