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September 16, 2008

Petitclerc closes with 5th gold
Canadian athlete shines in her final Paralympics

Canadian Chantal Petitclerc won the 1,500-metre wheelchair race (T54) in Beijing on Tuesday, a fitting end to an exceptional Paralympic career.

It was her fifth gold medal of the Beijing Games, which will be her last Paralympics.

“I knew I was going to win," said Petitclerc, whose coach sprayed her with champagne after her victory. "When I saw I was on my own, it was like a bonus. These Games have been so good. I felt like it was a gift to finish it all alone. It was great."

Petitclerc broke out of the pack with about 300 metres remaining and handily won the race in three minutes 39.88 seconds. Britain's Shelly Woods was second in 3:40.99 while Edith Hunkeler of Switzerland was third in 3:41.03.

Canada's Diane Roy was eighth in 3:43.66. She will race the marathon on Wednesday.

Petitclerc, 38, said it still had not sunk in that it was her final Paralympics race. "When I get to the village and I really absorb everything, I think it will sink in," she said. "It's just so great. I know I have worked really hard for it. Nobody gave it to me."

“I took on a big challenge earlier this year when I decided to enter five events," she told CBC Television. "I knew it was possible to do. I knew I had the fitness level and strength, but to actually have these five gold medals is amazing. It’s magical.”

Petitclerc, who races in the T54 class — for wheelchair athletes with a range of spinal cord injuries and amputations — also won the 100, 200, 400 and 800 in Beijing, setting world records in the last three events.

Petitclerc has won 21 medals through five Paralympics, including 14 gold, five silver and two bronze.

The Montreal native lost the use of her legs in a car accident when she was 13 years old.


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