Canada's Sports Hall of Fame Canadian History and Society: Through the Lens of Sport Virtual Museum of Canada


Paralyzed from the waist down in an accident at the age of thirteen, Chantal Petitclerc refused to let the new direction her life had taken limit her athletic dreams. Taking up wheelchair racing, she constantly pushed the limits of her abilities, setting challenging goals to refine her technique and increase her speed. Between 1992 and 2008, Chantal achieved unprecedented success as a Paralympian, collecting 21 medals, 14 of which were gold, and smashing multiple world records in her sport. In a tour de force performance, she won every race she entered at the 2004 Paralympic Games, setting a new record by capturing a total of five gold medals. Remarkably, she repeated this accomplishment at the 2008 Paralympic Games, and became the first Canadian woman with a disability ever to be awarded the Lou Marsh Memorial Trophy as Canada's top athlete of the year.

Chantal Petitclerc had achieved excellence as a high-performance athlete by choosing not to make excuses, and constantly striving to improve. However, despite her inspiring victories at the Paralympic Games, in 2004, Athletics Canada asked her to share the annual award for Canada's top track and field athlete with hurdler Perdita Felicien. Although Chantal Peticlerc admired Felicien, she declined the co-award, believing her achievements were sufficient to warrant the award in their own right.

The high degree of personal accountability that drove Chantal Petitclerc to demand the very best from herself on the field of play also compelled her to insist on equal recognition off of it. She received widespread public support for taking a stand against Athletics Canada in 2004, and was invited by representatives of the organization to discuss the way Paralympic and Olympic results were compared when granting top athletic awards. Since retiring from competition in 2008 Chantal has worked as a public speaker and media personality. Her achievements as both athlete and activist continue to encourage Canadians to recognize high-performance athletes equally, "whether they are in a wheelchair or running shoes."

photograph of Chantal Petitclerc holding five gold medals
Chantal Petitclerc competed in wheelchair racing for herself and to push her own limits, to inspire others to compete and to try hard. "There is no such thing as too small or too big a dream. And to have those big dreams, to do everything to make it happen and when they do happen it is a great sense of accomplishment, for you and everyone who is working with you and for your country. It is possible to make these dreams happen and to trust that what you will want to accomplish in life, you have everything to make it happen". (quoted by Chantal Petitclerc in interview with Canada's Sports Hall of Fame in 2013)
Collection: Canadian Paralympic Committee/Jean-Baptiste Benavent

photograph of Chantal Petitclerc competing in wheelchair race
Chantal Petitclerc won five gold medals at the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens. Four years later at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing she and her coach made the decision to go for a repeat. She knew she had to focus on every single thing that needed to be done, that every medal was an end to her dreams. The most significant memory she has from Beijing is sitting in the empty stadium after the last race and saying "I had done it."
Collection: Canadian Paralympic Committee/Mike Ridewood

photograph of Chantal Petitclerc holding gold medal from Beijing
Chantal Petitclerc considers the 100m race in Beijing as the most challenging. It was the first event on the track and it was important to start strong with that first gold. "It becomes a race against yourself, a race where you need more than speed, but you need to go with your head and your heart and your soul and give it everything, but that's what makes it the medal I'm most proud of." (quoted by Chantal Petitclerc in interview with Canada's Sports Hall of Fame in 2013)
Collection: Canadian Paralympic Committee/Benoit Pelosse

photograph of Chantal Petitclerc in race wheelchair
When Chantal Petitclerc was injured at the age of 13 she had to readjust her life, to take a new direction and build on it. She fell in love with wheelchair racing, with the speed and competitive nature of the sport. Although she finished last in her first race: "I was in love with the sport and I had a great passion for going fast and I knew it was possible for it to happen and from that race I knew it could only get better." (quoted by Chantal Petitclerc in interview with Canada's Sports Hall of Fame in 2013)
Collection: Canadian Paralympic Committee/Benoit Pelosse

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