Versatile paddler Mathieu St-Pierre searches for more speed

Canadian Paralympic Committee

May 25, 2022

Paralympian back in action this weekend

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SHAWINIGAN, Que. – In the long and short of it, Mathieu St-Pierre has overcome every challenge that’s stood in his path.

The one-time marathon paddler is now one of the world’s top Para canoers in the VL2 sprint events. For the first time in his career, St-Pierre competed at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo and placed an impressive fifth, only 0.94 seconds from the podium.

Now, he is all set to raise the bar even higher for another three years towards Paris 2024.

The first big test of the 2022 season is the sole World Cup event for Para canoers this Thursday to Sunday in Poznan, Poland. While the post Paralympic period was somewhat drab for the 34-year-old from Shawinigan, Que., as soon as he went to California for a national team camp in February his mood perked up and he knew he was committed for another Games cycle.

“It was tough after the Games because you made this enormous effort to get there and now you’re looking at another three years and it seems long,” he said just before leaving for Europe on Saturday. “But I had a really good camp in Chula Vista and my times were superior to last year and I hope it’s going to continue through to the season.”

St-Pierre has been focused on his technique over the off season working with able-bodied team members on his stroke and his positioning in the boat in order to gain more power. Over the last few weeks, even with the mighty Riviere St-Maurice overflowing its banks due to heavy rainfalls, St-Pierre has battled the currents to be sharp for that first World Cup.

‘’I had trouble with my seat just prior to the Games but in the winter I got a team to bring the adjustments to perfections and it was all ready for the camp and it has made a big difference,’’ he said. ‘’I have no immediate health issues right now and I want to keep progressing and eventually get on the podium.’’

St-Pierre’s life forever changed on February 19, 2015. The strapping lumberjack, who was also heavy into cross country skiing at the time, became paralyzed from the waist down when a felled tree came crashing down on top of him.

The extent of his injuries is too long to describe, and they still affect him today. In fact, he is likely to undergo further surgery after this season.

As a marathon canoer before his accident, St-Pierre competed in 200 kilometre races that often took over 10 hours to complete.

‘’My strength really kicks in after the first 100 metres (Para races are 200 metres),” he said. ‘’I think I probably have one of best second half races so I really worked on my first 100 this winter and I’m excited to see where I’ll rank at the World Cup.

‘’In a 200 kilometre race you have plenty of time to make adjustments and you don’t really ever have a bad race. In the sprint you have to be perfect from start to finish – you can’t miss a stroke, you can’t alter your technique, and the intensity of the race was hard for me to adjust to.”

St-Pierre’s rise in Para canoe is certainly a story to follow leading to 2024 in Paris.

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