December 15, 1969 |
At the age of thirteen, she lost use of both legs when a heavy barn door fell on her. Gaston Jacques, a high school physical education teacher, was to have a decisive influence on her life when he convinced her to try swimming to develop her physical strength and stamina. It was Petitclerc's first contact with sports and training.
When she was eighteen, Pierre Pomerleau, a trainer at Université Laval in Quebec City, introduced her to wheelchair sports. Using a homemade wheelchair, she took part in her first race and came last, well behind the other competitors. However, she had fallen in love with wheelchair racing and a long and fruitful career had begun.
While Petitclerc was developing her skills as a wheelchair athlete, she pursued her studies, first in social sciences at the CEGEP de Sainte-Foy and then in history at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, where she registered in order to be able to train with Peter Eriksson, who remains her coach to this day.
Petitclerc competed in the Paralympic Games for the first time in Barcelona in 1992, returning with two bronze medals, the start of collection that now includes twenty one Paralympic medals, fourteen of them gold. Four years later, at the Atlanta games, she took gold medals in the 100 and 200 m events and three silvers in the 400, 800, and 1500 m races. At the 2000 Summer Paralympics, she won two golds, in the 200 m and 800 m, and two silvers, in the 100 m and 400 m races. She won three gold medals (in 100 m, 200 m, and 400 m) and a bronze (800 m) at the 2002 World Championships and a gold at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in the 800 m. At the 2004 Summer Olympics (where wheelchair racing was an exhibition sport) she won the 800 m, and went on to an impressive showing with 5 gold medals at the 2004 Summer Paralympics. When she returned from Athens in 2004, Petitclerc told reporters the 2008 Summer Paralympics in Beijing would be her last big international meeting but that she will continue training and road racing for a while. For her performance in 2008, she was awarded the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canadian athlete of the year and the Canadian Press's Bobbie Rosenfeld Award as Canada's female athlete of the year.
With her 5 golds in the 2004 Paralympics, she tied the existing Canadian gold medal record at a single Games, Winter or Summer, set by Stephanie Dixon at the 2000 Summer Paralympics. Her 5 golds in the 2008 Paralympics tied that record. As of 2010, the record still stood. As of 2012 she holds five world records for wheelchair racing.
The St-Marc-des-Carrières municipal ice hockey arena now bears her name.
Rio Tinto Alcan is her main sponsor since 1998.
On June 16, 2009, it was announced that Petitclerc would receive a star on Canada's Walk of Fame in Toronto. The induction ceremony was held on September 12, 2009. In 2009, she was made a Companion of the Order of Canada "for her achievements as a Paralympic champion known internationally as an inspiration, and for her commitment to developing sports for athletes with a disability". In 2012 she was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree by the University of Alberta.
Petitclerc was appointed as a coach and mentor to the British athletics team ahead of the 2012 Summer Paralympics, working alongside her former coach and UK Athletics' Paralympic head coach Peter Eriksson.
- "Petitclerc wins 2008 Lou Marsh Award". The Sports Network. 2008-12-09. Retrieved 2008-12-09.
- "Petitclerc voted CP's female athlete of the year". The Sports Network. 2008-12-26. Retrieved 2008-12-26.
- Vancouver Sun, "Woolstencroft wins fifth gold medal", CanWest News Service, 21 March 2010 (accessed 21 March 2010)
- Roy-Brenneis, Derek (April 30, 2012). "UAlberta honorary degrees announced". University of Alberta.
- "Chantal Petitclerc brings passion to Commonwealth Games". Glasgow 2014 XX Commonwealth Games (CBC Sports). The Canadian Press. July 17, 2014. Retrieved July 18, 2014.
- "The Stars Align at the 12th Annual Canada's Walk of Fame". Canada's Walk of Fame. 2009-06-16. Retrieved 2009-06-16.
- "Governor General announces 60 new appointments to the Order of Canada". July 1, 2009.
- "Chantal Petitclerc to join GB Paralympic athletics team as coach". bbc.co.uk. 28 November 2011. Retrieved 3 September 2012.