Returning home a champion is nothing new for Michelle Stilwell, but this time it was different.
The Parksville-Qualicum MLA landed at the Nanaimo Airport Monday after regaining her wheelchair racing crown, but with an uncertain future in the sport.
She earned gold in the T52 classification 200, 400 and 800-metre races at the International Paralympic Committee 2013 Athletics World Championships in Lyon, France. She set a world record in the 800 (2:14.79) and a championship record in the 200 (35.71). Biggest of all, she regained her status as the most dominant athlete in her sport, after she lost for the first time in the 100 metres at the 2012 London Paralympic Summer Games.
At the age of 17 Michelle was rendered quadriplegic after falling from a friends back while piggyback riding. Prior to her injury Michelle was involved in many sports. She excelled at track, basketball and ringette. Her injury has not put a stop to her enjoyment of these sports, just a few alterations.
The idea of practicing sports in a wheelchair first occurred in England during the Second World War as a means of contributing to the physical and psychological rehabilitation of the many people wounded during the war.
The Paralympics were launched in 1948 when Sir Ludwig Guttman organized the International Wheelchair Games to coincide with the Olympic Games taking place in London. The name derives from the Greek "para" ("beside" or "alongside") and thus refers to a competition held in parallel with the Olympic Games. There is no relation with paralysis or paraplegia intended, however, the word Paralympic was originally a portmanteau combining 'paraplegic' and 'Olympic'.