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Ottawa, Canada – The 2012 Paralympic Games are just a few weeks away, and the Canadian Para-Cycling Team will be looking very strong as it enters its final preparations for this biggest para-cycling race in the world.
A total of 13 athletes, men and women, along with four pilots, have been nominated by Cycling Canada to the Canadian Paralympic Team that will be heading to London to compete at the 2012 Paralympic Games from August 29 to September 9, with the objective to secure medals for Canada and make our great nation proud.
“It’s very exciting to have the para-cycling athletes nominated for London, as they are expected to be one of Canada’s top medal potential sports at the Paralympics,” said Chef de Mission, Gaétan Tardif. “We’ll be looking to this team to lead the way for Canada with their chances to win medals early on in the Games.”
“Our team will be ready to compete with the World’s best, and come back home with medals to make our nation proud. We have all the items in place for strong performances, with resilient athletes, great coaches and a solid group of support staff,” said Jacques Landry, Team Leader and High Performance Director for Cycling Canada. “Our Canadian para-cyclists have proven race after race that they are a force to be reckoned with, in all disciplines and all categories.”
Canada has enjoyed a highly successful season in 2012, grabbing six UCI World Cup titles, an all-time high, and has been a strong medal contender in every para-cycling race it has entered in 2012.
The team will be headlined by the very powerful tandem of Robbi Weldon and Lyne Bessette, two athletes who have dominated the international scene over the last two years, in both the road race and the time trials. The tandem won the 2010 World Championships Road Race, and in 2011 went on win the Time Trial race at the Worlds. Over the last three years, the powerful team grabbed the coveted White Jersey, awarded to the overall World Cup Champion.
The women’s tandem of Geneviève Ouellet and Emily Roy will be looking to defend and improve on their bronze medal performance from the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing.
“I am very pleased to attend my second Paralympic Games. It is always gratifying to see that efforts Emily and I are putting in sport are recognized by Cycling Canada and the Canadian Paralympic Committee. The very good start that Emily and I had this season and distinguished career give us hope for a podium on the road in London. One thing is certain, we will work very hard in the next 40 days to achieve this objective,” commented blind athlete Geneviève Ouellet.
The Women’s tricycle race will be another great event for Canada, with three contenders for medals. Marie-Ève Croteau won back to back World Cup titles, and won the World Championships title in both road events in the last two World Championships. Shelley Gautier could also be a medal threat, and so is rookie Dominique Mainguy, who surfaced this year and has shown great potential for success at the Paralympic Games.
“Since I was little, sport has always been part of my life and the Olympics have always been for me an impossible dream after many obstacles that life has given me, but now today, my dreams come true having the honor to represent my country at the Paralympic Games in London on August 29,” said Croteau, who is a two-time World Champions and two-time World Cup Champion.
“Is this the reward for having made it through all these challenges, having kept my head high, to have kept my positivism but also never giving up despite my many obstacles? Who knows! But one thing is certain is that I will have even bigger smile and my heart beating to get a medal even if I have to compete with men.”
Gauthier is thrilled about her nomination to the team: “Before my accident my goal was to go to the Olympic or Paralympic Games as a physiotherapist. Now it is to go as a para-cyclist. I am almost there, going as an athlete.”
Handcyclist Mark Ledo is making his cycling debut at Paralympic Games, but is no rookie to the environment. Ledo is a convert from Athletics, and represented Canada at the 2008 Games in the wheelchair marathon and the 5000m races.
“It’s an honor to be nominated and selected to represent Canada, the country I love. I look forward to the Paralympic experience once again. I would like to thank my family, friends, coaches, trainers, sponsors and staff for making this all possible!,” said Ledo.
Mark Beggs, which became the first Canadian hand cyclist to race at Paralympic Games as the discipline was introduced in 2004 in Athens, will be making his third trip to Paralympic Games. “These games will be my third and I’m still as motivated as my first. This was my most difficult selection because I really worked hard to get there and it did not come easy.
With my experience of two other great games I am able to anticipate a little how it will happen, even though there are always unexpected challenges. The two other Games that I attended are undoubtedly the most beautiful experience I have lived as an athlete and those who come in this summer will be equally as beautiful, and even more because I will not repeat the mistakes I’ve already done. I’m more prepared than ever.”
“I will always be the first athlete in hand bike has represented Canada at the Paralympics and I’d even be the first athlete in hand bike has to earn a medal at the Paralympics.”
Also noteworthy is Alexandre Cloutier’s fourth appearance at Paralympic Games. Cloutier, who has piloted blind cyclists to many Paralympic medals, will be looking to secure a podium performance along with Daniel Chalifour.
Canada will field seven rookies to the Paralympic Games: Marie-Ève Croteau, 2012 World Cup Champion Robert Labbé, Dominique Mainguy, pilot and Olympian Lyne Bessette, Jaye Milley, 2012 World Cup Champion and world record holder in the individual pursuit Marie-Claude Molnar, as well as World Champion and World Cup Champion Shelly Gautier.
Molnar is seeing her selection as trust from her coaches: “Each must prove that he/she belongs on the team to represent Canada in cycling at the Paralympic Games in London. I see a selection for the Games as trust from my coaches. Not only it is the confidence of a coach, but the confidence of all people involved directly or indirectly in the story of an athlete. The athlete is chosen because he/she accomplished something that is not easy for everyone, because otherwise everyone would do cycling and high-performance would not be as well. To be selected is not only an honor but an invisible contract that the athlete signs with the whole country, with an athlete promising to be at its best when it comes time to race day.