Powered by pride
She is the greatest wheelchair racer in Olympic history
With Rio Tinto Alcan as a long-time sponsor, Canada's Chantal Petitclerc smashed several world records on her way to winning five gold medals in Beijing this year, duplicating her performance at the Athens Games four years earlier.
A paraplegic since 13, Chantal has been wheelchair racing for 20 years, watching her sport grow from infancy to one where disabled athletes from 140 countries competed at the 2008 Beijing Games. This year's Olympic opening ceremonies were especially emotional since Chantal had earlier announced that this would be her last Paralympic competition. "I choked up," she said. "It was very moving and beautiful to see those thousands of Chinese traditional drummers! It was as if someone was sending me a personal message -- Chantal, this energy, this strength, this beauty is to help you finalise your training in the last month."
Today Chantal holds the distinction of having won the most wheelchair track and field medals in the world -- a career total of 21 Paralympic medals and one Olympic gold (achieved at Athens in the 800 metre demonstration event). At Beijing, Chantal powered her way to gold in the 100 metre, 200 metre, 400 metre, 800 metre and 1500 metre races. The 1,500 metre was emotional as it was her fifth medal and her final Paralympic race. "Just 200 metres from the finish line, I knew that I was going to win and I just wanted them to give me my medal right away," she said with a smile. "For once, I raised my arms with 10 more metres still to go!"
Chantal gives back to her community as an ambassador of the international Right to Play humanitarian program, in her involvement with England's national Mobility Programme which promotes accessibility for the vehicles of individuals with a disability, and as a spokesperson for Défi Sportif, an annual event for athletes with a disability that draws more than 2,500 athletes to Montreal from over ten countries.
Over the years Chantal has met thousands of Rio Tinto Alcan employees during plant tours in Canada, Europe, Australia and the United States, encouraging them to pursue their dreams. "We're very proud of Chantal's remarkable achievements," said Dick Evans, Chief executive, Rio Tinto Alcan. "Many of our employees have been following her success over the course of our ten-year partnership. She is a source of great inspiration and motivation for us all."
Prior to her departure, Dick Evans presented Chantal with a lucky charm pendant designed by Gordon Norfolk, one of our colleagues in Australia, as well as a book with best wishes from Maison Alcan employees. Upon her return to Montreal a proud group of Rio Tinto Alcan employees joined an enthusiastic crowd to greet her. "I want to thank each and every one of you for your support, positive energy and kind words," she said. "I'll be travelling a lot over the next year, and hope to see you someday!"
Rio Tinto Alcan looks forward to exploring new opportunities with Chantal as she now focuses on wheelchair road racing and marathons.