(photo: Robbi Weldon (left) and her pilot Lynn Bessette celebrate gold at London 2012)
OTTAWA – Cycling Canada announced Monday that visually impaired rider and Paralympic champion Robbi Weldon of Thunder Bay, Ont. will be one of five new inductees into the Canadian Cycling Hall of Fame.
The ceremony is scheduled for next Saturday at the Chateau Bromont in Quebec’s Eastern Townships. According to the Cycling Canada website, Weldon is only the second Para cyclist to be inducted. The other is the late Gary Longhi in 2017.
The Canadian Cycling Hall of Fame was created in 2015 to recognize outstanding achievement and contribution to the sport of cycling by both athletes and builders. With this induction, the Hall of Fame will count 27 members, including 22 athletes and five builders.
The highlight of Weldon’s career was a gold medal performance with pilot Lyne Bessette in the visually impaired women’s 80-kilometre road race at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. A big story in London was Weldon bringing her two young children to the Games so they could be inspired by the experience.
At the age of 15, Weldon was diagnosed with Stargardt Disease, a genetic form of macular degeneration affecting central vision. At Mohawk College in Brantford, Ont., she was introduced to two sports for the visually impaired: goalball and powerlifting and went on to set national and world records in the squat, bench press and deadlift in 1995-96.
Before her diagnosis she was already an active participant in numerous sports. Weldon first started out on downhill skis at age three. After many years of alpine racing and then ski instructing, she decided to take on a new challenge in 2002 with Para nordic skiing.
On the trails she competed at both the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver and the 2014 Games in Sochi. For Sochi, she had a major setback in her preparations in August 2013. During a Para cycling World Cup training session in Matane, Que., Weldon and her cycling pilot at the time, Emilie Roy, were hit by a car.
Weldon broke her collarbone, shoulder blade and fifth vertebrae in the accident, which left her bedridden for five months. She said both she and Roy were lucky to survive the crash. Despite her clavicle not fully healed she competed in Sochi and underwent surgery later that year.
On the cycling side, it was after competing at Vancouver 2010 that she followed up on an invitation from a national cycling coach to try out for the tandem cycling team.
It was on wheels that she enjoyed her biggest successes. At the 2011 Parapan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, Weldon and Bessette won gold in all four tandem cycling events and were named Canada’s flag bearers for the Closing Ceremony.
She added to her medal haul at the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games, with a silver medal in the time trial with Audrey Lemieux and concluded her brilliant career with two more top-10 finishes at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio.