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Wheelchair Athlete Chosen Canadian Of The Year
December 21, 2004
MONTREAL, QUEBEC--The following four paragraphs are excerpts from a story in this week's edition of Maclean's magazine:
In wheelchair racing, as in many sports, strategy will only get you so far . . . At some point, every race comes down to willpower, and in 15 years of competition, Chantal Petitclerc has exerted plenty of it. When the finish line looms and her opponents' arms are burning, she draws from some unknown reserve of strength and determination, routinely dashing the hopes of athletes who thought they could keep up.
The same qualities that bring victory on the track make the 35-year-old Montrealer Maclean's Canadian of the Year in 2004. But her athletic exploits are only part of the story. Last month, the country saw a different dimension of Petitclerc, when Athletics Canada told her she'd be sharing an award for the year's top track and field athlete with able-bodied hurdler Perdita Felicien. The decision was patently unfair: at the Paralympics in Athens, Petitclerc won an astonishing five gold medals and smashed three world records. Felicien had an excellent season, but crashed in her Olympic final. The decision should have been a no-brainer.
So Petitclerc quietly refused, and thus began a kind of minuet. Athletics Canada pleaded, she reconsidered; they pressured, she declined. "I felt there was a limit to how far you can compromise," she now says. "By accepting, the message I'd be sending to everybody was that this was all my Paralympic medals and my world records were worth."
Trailblazer is one label Petitclerc can live with, because she's been cutting her own path since she lost the use of her legs at 13.
"Canadian of the year: Chantal Petitclerc" (Maclean's)
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