Among the great stories that defined Canada’s memorable experience as host country of the 2015 Parapan American Games, British Columbia’s Michelle Stilwell captured the gold medal in the women’s 100M T52 at CIBC Athletics Stadium. The T52 classification signifies a category for quadriplegics based on their functioning level. Athletes that are categorized in T51 possess less trunk control and reduced ability in their biceps and triceps.
Recording a time of 19.58 seconds, the 41-year old Stilwell finished one second behind the world record that she previously set in 2012. American competitors Kerry Morgan and Cassie Mitchell finished second and third, while fourth place belonged to Becky Richter of Saskatoon.
Having also raced in the finals of the Women’s 800M T53 event, Stilwell finished with a personal record of 2.22:90. Such admirable performances at the Parapan American Games solidified Stilwells legacy as Canada’s most decorated female paralympic athlete.
The greater victory for the University of Calgary-educated Stilwell was a gold medal victory on home soil. Complementing such an achievement is the fact that Stilwell captured a gold medal in women’s wheelchair basketball at the 2000 Paralympic Summer Games in Sydney, Australia. With both gold medals, Stilwell (who first become a quadriplegic at the age of 17) is the first Canadian female paralympic athlete to capture gold medals in two different summer sporting events.
Stilwell also enjoyed gold medal performances at the 2008 and 2012 Paralympic Summer Games. At Beijing 2008, Stilwell enjoyed gold in the 100- and 200-meter wheelchair races. She would enjoy a p air of podium of finished in London 2012, gold in the 200-meter and silver in the 100-meter. Having also enjoyed gold medal triumphs at the 2006, 2011 and 2013 IPC Athletics World Championships, her greatest performance came in 2013, capturing gold in the 100-, 200- and 800-meter races, respectively.
In addition to her remarkable athletic career, Stilwell is also a Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) for the riding of Parksville-Qualicum in the British Columbia provincial government. Elected on May 14, 2013, one of her first political duties included a stint as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health of Seniors.
Appointed to her own position as a Minister in BC Premier’s Christy Clark’s cabinet on February 2, 2015, she is responsible for the portfolio of Social Development and Social Innovation. Taking into account that she once worked on the BC Government’s 10 by 10 Challenge, an initiative to help provide employment opportunities for people with disabilities, Stilwell is an ideal and highly qualified individual to handle such a key position in the Cabinet. As a side note, her devotion to public service is boundless, as she also serves on the Treasury Board.
Prior to politics, Stilwell was a proud advocate for people with disabilities, while also performing duties as a motivational speaker. An ambassador for the Rick Hansen Foundation, another notable disabled athlete from British Columbia, her hard work culminated with an unprecedented honor in 2012. Stilwell made local history as the first person to receive Parksville’s Key to the City. In addition, she was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, a highly fitting honor. Whether it be debate, legislation, serving on committees or discussion with consultants, Stilwell’s work ethic is just as evident, resulting in a win-win situation for her constituents.