Shelly Gautier: Going for Gold at the Paralympics!
On September 14 and 16, Shelley Gautier will compete for payacycling medals at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games.
As a Canadian world-class para-cyclist, Honorary Chairperson and Director of The Shelley Gautier Para-Sport Foundation, and Department of Physical Therapy alumnus (class of ’95), Shelley is making a difference both on and off the road.
In 2001, Shelley was a physiotherapist who aspired to attend the Olympics to help athletes compete. She was on holidays in Vermont when she crashed her bike and sustained a severe head injury. After 6 weeks in a coma, she spent 8 months in a rehabilitation hospital in Toronto, learning to walk and talk again. She has hemiplegia, or one-sided paralysis, which affects the right side of her body.
Determined to sustain her passion for sport, despite this paralysis, Shelley became the first female tricycle rider on the international para-cycling scene. Since then, she has dominated her class, won several world championships and competed in the London 2012 Paralympics. In November 2015, Shelley received The Above and Beyond Award from the Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy Alumni Association, in honour of her successes in sport, her commitment to the University, and the establishment of her Foundation, which supports para-athletes worldwide.
We spoke to Shelley in the weeks leading up to her competition in Rio de Janeiro, about her preparation for the Paralympics, her Foundation, and her love of physical activity.
Tell us how you are feeling leading up to the 2016 Paralympic Games!
Right now, I am just staying focused on training. I want to be prepared, and won’t let myself worry. I’ve raced against most of my competitors in the past, so I know what to expect competition-wise. I’ve been on Team Canada for 7.5 years, racing in the Parapan Am games, world cup events and the London Paralympics, so I know how to stay focused.
How are you training for this tough competition?
I am at the gym twice a week, and exercise my legs twice a day to build up strength and power. I also bike train 5 days a week, and am eating well. My coach, Eric Van Den Eynde, is great and keeps me on track!
Tell us about The Shelley Gautier Para-Sport Foundation.
The main goal of my Foundation is to promote health and well-being in Canada for children and adults with a disability. Too many disabled children and adults are not involved in sport, because they don’t know how to start! The Foundation helps persons with disabilities participation in sports and their community.
I want to note that we have such amazing volunteers! I am trying to win a medal and can’t do it all, so their support is vital! I’m also grateful for Alan Greer, CEO of my Foundation, who makes sure the Foundation exceeds its goals!
What inspires you?
I want people with a disability to have opportunities to get out of their house, into their community and enjoy things recreationally. By competing in the Paralympics and starting the Foundation, I want everyone to better understand disability and remove barriers to participation. People with disabilities have so much to offer and teach their community!
I’m also really focused on promoting recreational sport – not just competitive. I want people with a disability to get out, get active, and go for a drink afterwards, or coffee; the social side of things!
What are you most looking forward to at the Paralympic Games? I’m excited to visit Canada House and the Paralympic village. Mostly I want to do well and make Canada proud.
Good luck Shelley! We will be rooting for you!