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Interview: Canadian wheelchair racing great Stilwell confident of more Paralympic glory

By Al Campbell (Xinhua)

10:14, August 30, 2012

VANCOUVER, Aug. 29 (Xinhua) -- At 38-years-old, Canadian wheelchair racing great Michelle Stilwell insists her age won't be factor at the London Paralympics starting Wednesday in the British capital.

As a double gold medalist in Beijing in the 100 and 200 meters T52 classification, meaning quadriplegic four limbs affected, the Vancouver Island resident comes into London on the back of an outstanding year.

While training in Australia at the start of the year, she broke the world record in the 400 meters (1 minute, 5.41 seconds), a mark she had been chasing since the 2008 Beijing Games. She then lowered her 200 meter world record to 33.52 in Switzerland in May, and smashed her 100-meter mark at a meet in Ontario in July to 18.67.

Stilwell, who broke her neck when she was 17, calls her preparations "far more intense" now than at the previous Paralympics. While the 400 meters is not a Games event in the T52 classification, the 200 meters goes Saturday, and the 100 meters on September 5. Both are a single-race final with no heats.

"I've put every resource that has been given to me into place. I have changed everything that I possibly think I could to make sure that this is the possible plan," said the mother of an 11-year-old son. "My coach (Peter Lawless) and I have really come together and come up with the best possible plan for London and I know that I am going to be the most prepared and that's all I can do."

Her main rivals in London will be Belgian Marieke Vervoort, the two-time triathlon world champion as a wheelchair competitor, and Americans Cassie Mitchell and Kerry Morgan. Stilwell beat the U.S. pair by more than two seconds in both the 100 and 200 meters at the Boiling Point Wheelchair Classic in July and told Xinhua she feels no pressure going into London.

"I really am trying not to focus on any kind of expectations that other people are setting me. I figure if I planned the race well enough, and I race the plan, everything will fall into place and I just have to focus on the performance and that result will come."

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