RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – Michelle Stilwell raced her way to another Paralympic medal on Saturday, winning gold in her first-ever appearance in the women’s 400m-T52 final.
Stilwell, established a new Paralympic record with a time of 1:05.43, but came just shy of the world record of 1:04.87.
“It’s so incredible to have that first opportunity … the Paralympics is the biggest event,” said Stilwell, following the race at Olympic Stadium. “It would have been fantastic [to set the world record], but really my performance today was to ensure that I crossed the finish line first and bring home a gold medal for Canada, that’s what it was about.”
When the 42-year-old mother isn’t racing, she can be found inside of the Parliament Buildings working as a member of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, a position she’s held since 2013.
Her para-career began in 2000 at Sydney, with a gold medal as a member of Canada’s wheelchair basketball team, then shifted to track where she’s been competing since 2006. Her medal collection currently stands at five in athletics (4 golds and 1 silver) and she’s likely to add another in the 100m-T52 final on Sept. 17.
“For so long our classification hasn’t had a huge field, for years I’ve just chased the clock,” said Stilwell. “I don’t worry about what my competitors are doing … I can’t control those things, for me it was about having a solid start, finding my cadence and pulling it through the finish.”
No doubt about it, Stilwell definitely benefited from her wealth of experience.
“I know what to expect. I’ve figured out how to prepare … going into this race today I was really calm and confident. These games, I’ve come in just wanting to do my best, enjoy them, and have fun.”