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September 5, 2008

Paralympics as valuable as Olympic Games: Petitclerc

Regardless of the number of medals Canadian Paralympians win in Beijing, athletes should take pride in their achievements, says veteran wheelchair racing legend Chantal Petitclerc.

The Montreal star, who will be taking part in her fifth and final Games when competition begins on Sunday, said the Paralympics should be considered as prestigious as the Olympics.

"That means the value of these medals is, in many events, the same value as an Olympic medal," said Petitclerc, a 14-time Paralympic medallist who has won eight golds

"You can qualify that by the number of countries, by the number of athletes and the depth, and how close the competition is. To me that's very positive."

More than 4,000 athletes from 148 countries will compete in Beijing, surpassing the 2004 Athens Games (3,806) and the Sydney Paralympics (3,881).

Canada is sending the same number of athletes (143) who competed four years ago in Athens.

Canada has been one of the top performing countries in the last two Paralympics, finishing third in the medal count at both competitions.

Focus on small details to get ahead: Dixon
But Victoria swimmer Stephanie Dixon said Canada might find it difficult to duplicate the results of the last two Paralympic Games.

"I think there is a lot more hard work that needs to go into it," said Dixon, 24, who won 13 medals in Sydney and Athens. "When you are the best out of thousands people instead of the best out of hundreds of people, obviously it means more to you.

"Each time the competition increases, it's going to mean more. You had to fight that much more to get that medal. The time between first, second and third is getting less and less. You have to focus on those small details to get ahead."

Petitclerc said the legitimacy of the Paralympics has led to the dropping of several categories in events such as swimming and athletics.

"Twenty years ago, I saw events where there wasn't [enough] athletes in one class to make a podium," said the 38-year-old, who lost use of both legs in an accident when she was 13.

"Truly that was embarrassing. Twenty years ago you could manage to go through to a semi and final without being a full-time athlete. Right now, every athlete that makes it to a final … is an athlete that trains six days a week, twice a day. It does give a right value to a Paralympic medal."


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