Michelle Stilwell was a champion wheelchair basketball player and wheelchair racer. You could also call her a juggler with her ability to combine a career in high performance sports and politics.
Stilwell won gold medals at the 2000, 2008, 2012 and 2016 Paralympic Games. She is the only Canadian female to be a Paralympic champion in two separate summer sports (basketball and athletics).
Born in Winnipeg, Man., Stilwell is going out on top. At the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, she won gold in the 100 and 400-metres. She retires as the current world record holder in the 100 and 200-metres. Her career total is six Paralympic gold medals and one silver.
“Today, my heart is heavy, as I am officially announcing my retirement from Paralympic competition,” she said on her Facebook page on Feb. 8. “Healthy active living will continue to be a part of my daily routine and I have no doubt that I will forever be connected and involved in the world of sport - a world that has given me decades of friendships, opportunity, growth, challenges, community, sportsmanship and inspiration.
‘’It has been my honor to proudly wear the maple leaf multiple times.”
Stilwell’s championship pedigree began at the 2000 Paralympic Games in Sydney as a member of the gold medal-winning wheelchair basketball team. In 2004 she took up wheelchair racing under coach Peter Lawless. They worked together for 13 years, amassing six Paralympic Games medals.
On April 12, 2017, Stilwell will be formally inducted into the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame.
“It's been such a privilege and pleasure to work with Michelle for these many years. The numerous successes have been made all the sweeter by some of the challenges she's had to overcome. She is an extraordinary athlete; her legacy will be felt for many years. I wish her the very best in the adventures ahead,” said Lawless.
Stilwell became a quadriplegic at age 17 when she fell from a friend’s back while piggyback riding. A natural athlete, she says she always knew she would get back into sports, just in a different way.
Stilwell was elected Member of the Legislative Assembly for British Columbia for Parksville-Qualicum on May 14, 2013 and was appointed Minister of Social Development and Social Innovation on February 2, 2015.
Michelle Stilwell’s Paralympic Games career
2016 Paralympic Games 200m 1st
2016 Paralympic Games 400m 1st
2012 Paralympic Games 200m 1st
2012 Paralympic Games 100m 2nd
2008 Paralympic Games 100m 1st
2008 Paralympic Games 200m 1st
2000 Paralympic Games wheelchair basketball 1st