TORONTO – Shelley Gautier knows what it takes to stay at the top in her sport. She showed this past summer that if anyone is going to wrestle away any world title from her, they are going to have to put in the work.
And right now, that appears to be a daunting task after Gautier produced an extraordinary season in 2018. She swept the time trial and road race at the world championships in Para cycling in the T1 (tricycle) event this past August and did the same in her three World Cup appearances over the summer.
A perfect season.
“It was one of my best-ever seasons,’’ said Gautier, now a 14-time world champion and Canada’s most successful cyclist, able-bodied or Para riding. ‘’I’m really proud of my accomplishments.”
This past summer will be considered a big turning point in her magnificent career. Usually, Gautier would train in the gym over the winter (from December to May) then focus solely on the bike over the racing months. However for 2018 she never stopped going to the gym, working on upper and lower body strength and balance through the summer.
‘’The gym is not really my favourite activity but it showed me it really helps,’’ said Gautier, 49, a two-time Paralympian who won a bronze medal in 2016. ‘’The balance work is pretty tricky but last year at worlds I crashed in the time trial. That was in the back of my mind in Italy but I focused on the route, to not go too fast around the corners, and ride hard.’’
The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games are now on her radar. She’s been fitted for a new leg brace and is in the midst of receiving a new arm brace as well so she can tackle the next two seasons with fewer concerns. Gautier is paralyzed on one side of her body after being injured in a bike crash in 2001.
In addition to spearheading what is now Canada’s top summer parasport, Gautier is giving back with the Shelley Gautier Para-Sport Foundation. It operates through contracts with community organizations in recreational facilities which enable people living with disabilities to be more integrated in their communities.
‘’I just want to get disabled people out of their homes and into their communities,’’ said Gautier, a physiotherapist with a BA from Western University and a Bsc from the University of Toronto. ‘’And I want them to learn about participating in wonderful sports like Para cycling so they can pursue a healthy lifestyle.’’
That lifestyle has suited Gautier just fine.