Chantal Petitclerc has been named Canada’s chef de mission at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in a move she said shows the major support for Paralympic sport in this country.
“As far as we know, it is the first time for a Paralympic athlete to be chef de mission in a multisport Games,” Petitclerc said Saturday.
“I think it sends a really good message about Canada, that we trust that a Paralympic athlete can represent all athletes and not just Paralympic athletes. I thinks that’s very positive, and I’m quite proud of that.”
The 42-year-old is one of Canada’s most decorated athletes. She holds world records over three different wheelchair distances, and has raced to 21 Paralympic medals including 14 gold.
She captured five golds at both the 2004 Paralympics in Athens and 2008 Games in Beijing.
Petitclerc has a special connection to the Commonwealth Games, carrying Canada’s flag into the stadium for the opening ceremonies in 2006 in Melbourne, Australia.
“The Commonwealth Games have always paved the route in terms of inclusion, they were the very first to have full medal status for Paralympic events in 2002 with wheelchair racing, and in Glasgow it will be the biggest ever number of Para sport events with 22 medal events,” Petitclerc said.
“They are a model to follow in terms of inclusion and so I’m even happier to be a part of that.”
Petitclerc won gold over 800 metres in both the 2002 and 2006 Commonwealth Games.
“There are so many reasons to be thrilled with Chantal’s appointment,” Andrew Pipe, the president of Commonwealth Games Canada, said in a statement. “A former flag bearer, multiple medallist, and someone with a deep appreciation for the athlete experience at the highest levels of international competition.”
Petitclerc follows in the footsteps of a couple of other Canadian sporting stars who’ve acted as chef de mission. Speedskater Nathalie Lambert had the role for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, cyclist Curt Harnett was Canada’s chef at the Pan American Games last year, while swimmer Mark Tewksbury had the job at the London Olympics this past summer.
“I think athletes do have a lot to offer when they do retire and that’s one of the places that we can give back to our sport because we’ve been there. We know what it takes, and we know how it is to be an athlete on a team,” Petitclerc said.
“One of my motivations is that I know that the hard work is done by the athlete and their coaches, but I also know that a good positive organized dynamic constructive team can make a difference between a good and a great performance and experience.”
Petitclerc was a coach with the United Kingdom team at the London Paralympics, but moved home to Montreal when her contract expired following the Games. Her first major task in her new job will be a site visit in February.
The Glasgow Commonwealth Games in July of 2014 will feature 17 sports over 11 days of competition.
Canada was fourth in total medals at the 2010 Games in New Delhi, India.