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Michelle Stilwell wins 5th gold: 'It was the moment I was working for'

Five was fantastic for Michelle Stilwell on Saturday in the 2016 Rio Paralympics. Stilwell, MLA for Parksville-Qualicum and B.C.’s social development minister, won the T52 wheelchair 400 metres, setting a Paralympics record of one minute 5.
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Michelle Stilwell celebrates her victory in the 400-metre T52 final at Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016. She set a Paralympic Games record for the event.

Five was fantastic for Michelle Stilwell on Saturday in the 2016 Rio Paralympics.

Stilwell, MLA for Parksville-Qualicum and B.C.’s social development minister, won the T52 wheelchair 400 metres, setting a Paralympics record of one minute 5.42 seconds.

The win marked Stilwell’s sixth Paralympic medal and fifth gold overall. She already had four gold medals, and a silver, in track from the 2008 and 2012 Games, and a gold from when she was a member of the Sydney 2000 wheelchair basketball team.

The 42-year-old from Parksville has dominated the 100- and 200-metre events internationally, but the 200 was scrapped from the schedule this year and replaced with the 400.

“For the last year and a half, two years, it’s really been my focus, to prepare for the 400,” Stilwell said. “I was pretty ecstatic. Going in I was ranked No. 2, so to be able to finish on top is what I came here to do. And to know the preparation my coach Peter Lawless and I put in to prepare, this is really what the goal was.”

In a statement, she said: "Bringing the gold home for Canada … it was the moment I was working for."

She is fourth among Island athletes in all-time Paralympic medals behind swimmers Michael Edgson (21 medals, including 18 gold) and Stephanie Dixon (17 medals, including seven gold), and skier Lauren Woolstencroft (10 medals, including eight gold).

Stilwell is one of several athletes with Island connections who are competing in Rio.

Stefan Daniel from Calgary, who trains in Victoria, won silver in the men’s PT4-classification Saturday as triathlon made its Paralympics debut. Ness Murby of Salt Spring Island placed sixth in the F11-class discus.

The Canadian women’s wheelchair basketball team, led by former University of Victoria Vikes hoops star Janet McLachlan, moved to 2-0 with a 73-28 victory over Argentina. McLachlan won two national championships in her five seasons at UVic before turning to wheelchair basketball after injuring her knee playing rugby for B.C.

“I’m so proud of Janet. She turned lemons into lemonade to become one of the top wheelchair basketball players in the world,” said Kathy Shields, who coached McLachlan at UVic.

The Elk Lake-based Canadian mixed coxed four won its repechage Saturday to advance to today’s final in the quest for Canada’s first-ever Paralympics rowing medal. The crew consists of coxswain Kristen Kit of Victoria, Meghan Montgomery of Shawnigan Lake, Curtis Halladay of Sudbury, Ont., Andrew Todd of Ottawa, and Victoria Nolan of Toronto.

Liam Stanley of Victoria, ranked No. 2 in the world, goes for the podium today in the men’s ambulatory 1,500 metres. The 19-year-old Glenlyon-Norfolk School graduate switched to track after the Canadian soccer team failed to qualify for the Rio Paralympics.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

— With files from The Canadian Press