Cindy Ouellet’s endless pursuit of excellence

Canadian Paralympic Committee

April 09, 2024

Quebec’s athlete of the decade doesn’t rest on her laurels

Canada takes on Great Britain in the preliminary round

TORONTO – Whether it’s through wheelchair basketball, Para nordic skiing, education, the family business, or her anti-bullying campaign, Cindy Ouellet continues her journey to make the world a better place for people with a disability.

On the playing field, the 35-year-old from Quebec City is one of the biggest stars in women’s wheelchair basketball. She has competed at four Paralympic Games and five Parapan Am Games in the sport as well as a winter Paralympics in Para nordic skiing.

She is busy vying for a sixth Paralympics this week at the last chance qualifier in women’s wheelchair basketball being held in Osaka, Japan. The top four go to Paris.



Canada, ranked fifth in the world, is favoured to qualify and training for the Games will soak up most of her summer.

However after Paris she will be back in class.

Ouellet’s education resume is as impressive as her sports career. She graduated in exercise science, earned a Masters in exercise physiology, and played wheelchair basketball for the University of Alabama. She received an academic scholarship and earned a doctorate at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles in bio-medical engineering.

She’ll start a new PhD, in neuroscience at Université Laval in Quebec City after the Paris Games. Ouellet shares a business with her parents in building and selling adaptive equipment. Her studies keep her on the cutting edge of the ever evolving technological advances in the field.

‘’It’s just super important for me to grow Para sport at the recreational level,” said Ouellet in February at the CPC’s content and media summit in Toronto. ‘’That is what our equipment is for. I want to help out the next generation, help people overall with disabilities, and let them know that there’s something out there for them.’’

Ouellet knows far too well how sport can enhance someone’s life whether they have a disability or not.

At age 12, she was diagnosed with bone cancer and went through 28 chemotherapy cycles.

Even though times were tough, she was always chasing new challenges. Eventually she was introduced to wheelchair basketball by a physiotherapist in 2005. A natural athlete, she was already swimming and participating in track when she made the transition to the court.

Ouellet made another giant sporting leap when she competed in Para nordic sit skiing at the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games. She became one of the few athletes in the world to participate at both a winter and summer Games.

‘’What drives me is personal achievement,’’ she said. ‘’I want to be better, stronger at my sport. I feel I’m learning something new every day in wheelchair basketball. It brings self-discipline.’’

Her achievements have not gone unnoticed. At the 2021 Quebec Sport Awards, she was named Quebec’s athlete of the decade for the 2010s, all sports able-bodied or disabled combined. She shared the award with Para swimmer Benoit Huot.

“That’s a big title,” she admitted. ‘’I was shocked. In Quebec we have so many great athletes both on the Paralympic and Olympic side. It was an incredible night seeing people coming up on video recognizing what I have done in my sports career.

‘’And it makes you realize nothing could have been achieved without the help of my coaches, family, trainers, and other support staff. There are so many people behind the scenes that I wish they could all get recognized.’’

Ouellet still has painful memories of her high school days when she was undergoing and recovering from her cancer treatment. With hair loss, a pale complexion, and using a wheelchair she was cruelly bullied in school.

Today she is proud to be a spokesperson for Sport‘Aide in Quebec, an anti-bullying organization in Quebec that allows kids to report intimidation incidents in their schools or everyday life.

‘’I was bullied in school because I was different,” Ouellet recalled. ‘’I was laughed at and for me it was physical and mental abuse. We need to tell the kids going through that today that they are not alone in this.’’

Ouellet travels to schools across the province to address that sensitive subject.

‘’It’s also an opportunity to speak to the kids who might be the ‘bulliers’ and teach them at a young age that it is not OK to laugh at people who are different.

‘’It is still happening today but there is definitely more education going on and we are trying to get the message to kids and parents that they can ask for help through organizations like Sport‘Aide.

‘’We are seeing progress in that aspect.’’

And progress is what defines Cindy Ouellet

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