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September 11, 2008

B.C.'s Stilwell breaks Paralympic record in women's 200

Canada's Michelle Stilwell set a Paralympic record en route to a gold medal in the women's 200-metre T52 for wheelchair track athletes Thursday in Beijing.

Stilwell, from Nanoose Bay, B.C., had a time of 36.18 seconds, more than a second faster than silver-medallist Yamaki Tomomi of Japan.

"I've always gone with 'what your mind believes your body will achieve,' and today it all came together," Stilwell said after her race.

"I was nervous because I was competing against Tomomi Yamaki, a rising star from Japan. I had a great start and a strong push. I focused on the process and in the end, I got the result."

Switzerland's Pia Schmid, who won a silver medal in Athens, earned the bronze in 39.95.

Stilwell began her Paralympic career as a wheelchair basketball player and helped Canada to a gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Games. However, the 34-year-old mother was forced to retire for medical reasons.

Stilwell suffers from chiari malformation, a congenital condition consisting of structural imperfections in the part of the brain that controls balance.

Her current coach, Peter Lawless, encouraged her to take up wheelchair racing at a coaching clinic, and she began competing for the Canadian national team in 2006.

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