Celebrating 25 years of Para sport: Michelle Stilwell stars for Canada at 2011 world championships

Wheelchair racer notches three gold and a silver
2011 Pfizer

When it comes to celebrating the last 25 years of Paralympic sport – since Pfizer Canada became an official supporter in 1996 – there is no way one can forget the incredible contributions of wheelchair racer Michelle Stilwell to the Paralympic Movement.

The Winnipeg native and long-time B.C. resident raced mostly in the shadows of the legendary Chantal Petitclerc at the height of her career. But in 2011 at the World Para Athletics Championships in Christchurch, New Zealand, it was her time to shine.

A Paralympic Games champion in 2000 with Canada’s women’s wheelchair basketball team and a two-time champion in wheelchair racing at the Beijing Paralympics in 2008, Stillwell produced her most productive international performance in New Zealand with three gold and a silver.

The T53 racer, who became a quadriplegic at age 17 after a fall, placed first in the 100m, 200m, and 400m, and second in the 800m. 

Stilwell won three of Canada’s four gold at those 2011 worlds. Jason Dunkerley was the other victor in the T11 800m race for the visually impaired. 

Canada won 12 medals in New Zealand, four of each colour. Stilwell’s fellow wheelchair racers were also productive, with Diane Roy earning two silver and a bronze and Brent Lakatos taking home a silver and a bronze.

Stilwell would go on to race at two more Paralympic Games before retiring in 2016, concluding her Para athletics career with five gold and one silver through three Games. 

By that time, she had already started a new chapter in her life devoted to public service. She was first elected to provincial office in British Columbia in June 2013. She ultimately served as MLA in Parksville-Qualicum from 2013-2020, which included roles as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health for Seniors and Minister of Social Development and Social Innovation. 

A proud ambassador for the Paralympic Movement, she also regularly shares her story through public speaking and advocating for sport for people with a disability. 

This year, the Canadian Paralympic Committee and Pfizer Canada are celebrating 25 years of supporting and promoting the Paralympic Movement together. Throughout 2021, we will look back on special sporting moments and milestones from each year of the partnership. 

Click here to read each moment so far.