Island MLA Michelle Stilwell sums up her world record at track meet: ‘Fantastic’

Most politicians would be happy just to win their race in an election.

But Michelle Stilwell isn’t like most politicians.

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The Parksville-Qualicum MLA and government caucus chairwoman set a world record of two minutes, 14.79 seconds in winning the gold medal in the women’s wheelchair T52 class 800 metres Thursday at the International Paralympic Committee world track and field championships in Lyon, France.

The former world record of two minutes, 16.71 seconds was established in 2005 by fellow Canadian Lisa Franks.

Stilwell holds four world records in the T52 class — the 100 metres, 200 metres, 400 metres and now 800 metres.

Thursday’s achievement came with bumps and scrapes.

The race was originally conducted Wednesday but a re-race was ordered for Thursday after Stilwell and Marieke Vervoort of Belgium collided hard with 200 metres remaining.

Stilwell managed to remain upright, but Vervoort’s chair tipped and she hit the ground.

The Belgian was ruled to have cut off Stilwell and disqualified for the re-race.

“Well, that did not go as planned,” Stilwell said in a Twitter post on Wednesday.

“I am OK, only a little bruised on the arm.”

On Thursday, after winning the second race, she summed things up with one word: “Fantastic.”

“I would have liked to have Marieke in the race. I look forward to the day when we can re-race,” she said in an interview conducted by meet organizers. “I hope she is doing well and recovering.

“We definitely had a great race plan going in today. It was about controlling the race.”

And she took note of the weather. “It’s been very, very warm — very hot.”

Stilwell, who became a paraplegic at 17 while playing piggy-back with friends and falling down a flight of stairs, is the only female athlete to have won gold medals in two sports in the Summer Paralympics.

She won gold in wheelchair basketball at Sydney 2000.

Complications from her spinal cord injury forced Stilwell to retire from wheelchair basketball.

She took up wheelchair track and won two gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics, and gold and silver at London 2012.

Stilwell’s silver at London came when Vervoort edged the Islander for gold in the T52 100 metres.

Stilwell, 39, who won a seat as a Liberal MLA in the May election, acknowledged the support she has received from the Island and across the country.

“It’s been wonderful getting all your emails and your posts. I’m looking forward to coming home and showing everyone my new bling.”

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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