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10 Canadian women to watch at the 2016 Paralympic Games

Among the soon-to-be stars of Rio are a former stuntwoman, a competitive pistol shooter–turned-archer and our October Ms. Chatelaine.
10 Canadian women to watch at the 2016 Paralympic Games

Photos, Canadian Paralympic Committee.

Paralympians 2016

Cindy Ouellet, 27

Hometown: Quebec City



Sport: Wheelchair basketball



Why we’re watching: Introduced to wheelchair basketball by her physiotherapist in 2005, Ouellet won gold for Quebec at the Canada Games just two years later. She went on to compete in Beijing and London, scored a coveted spot on Canada’s first-ever Women’s U25 National wheelchair basketball team and took home a silver at the Toronto Parapan American Games. Somehow, Ouellet has made time to study exercise science at the University of Alabama — her end goal is to obtain a PhD in biomedical engineering.

10 Canadian women to watch at the 2016 Paralympic GamesPhoto, Matthew Murnaghan/Canadian Paralympic Committee.

Karen Van Nest, 53

Hometown: North Bay, Ont.



Sport: Para-archery



Why we’re watching: Van Nest, who lost her leg in a motorcycle accident in 1985, got her start as a competitive pistol shooter. She competed in Sydney, Athens and Beijing before retiring due to shoulder issues. Since picking up the bow and arrow in 2008 — a practice that doesn’t irritate her upper body — Van Nest has clinched medals at the 2014 Pan Am Championships (silver and bronze) and the 2015 Parapan American Games (silver). In her spare time, she’s an avid cyclist. And kayaker.


10 Canadian women to watch at the 2016 Paralympic GamesPhoto, Dan Galbraith/Canadian Paralympic Committee.

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Victoria Nolan, 41

Hometown: Toronto



Sport: Para-rowing



Why we’re watching: Nolan has only 3 percent of her vision due to a degenerative eye condition called retinis pigmentosa, but that hasn’t hindered her performance — Rio will mark her third Paralympic competition. The mother of two temporarily retired her oars after the 2012 London Paralympic Games, but returned in 2015 to help her mixed coxed four crew snag bronze at the 2015 World Championships. She’s also our October Ms. Chatelaine.

10 Canadian women to watch at the 2016 Paralympic GamesPhoto, Matthew Murnaghan/Canadian Paralympic Committee.

Priscilla Gagné, 30

Hometown: Sarnia, Ont.



Sport: Para-judo



Why we’re watching: Like Nolan, Gagné also has retinitis pigmentosa. After trying her hand at wrestling, she made the switch to judo because it offered more opportunity for competition. Training under Nathalie Gosselin, a 1996 Olympic judoka, undoubtedly contributed to Gagné’s bronze win at the IBSA Judo World Cup in Hungary in 2015, a tournament that featured nearly 200 competitors from 31 countries. Just three weeks later, she won a Parapan Am silver.


10 Canadian women to watch at the 2016 Paralympic GamesPhoto, Dan Galbraith/Canadian Paralympic Committee.

Nancy Morin, 41

Hometown: Longueuil, Que.



Sport: Goalball



Why we’re watching: Morin, who is visually impaired, got her start in goalball at the tender age of 19, later winning back-to-back Paralympic golds in Sydney and Athens. Her bronze-winning turn at Toronto’s Parapan American Games last year positions her nicely for a podium spot in Rio.

10 Canadian women to watch at the 2016 Paralympic GamesPhoto, Dan Galbraith/Canadian Paralympic Committee.

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Robbi Weldon, 41

Hometown: Thunder Bay, Ont.



Sport: Para-cycling



Why we’re watching: A dual-sport athlete, Weldon competed in Para-Nordic skiing in both Sochi and Vancouver before pivoting to cycling in advance of the London Games in 2012. But versatility has always been the name of her game. Weldon, who was diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease at 15, began skiing at the age of three, then started power-lifting in college. She went on to set national and world records in squats, bench-press and deadlifting, a skill that probably helped her as Canada's flag-bearer at the 2011 Parapan Am Games in Guadalajara.  

10 Canadian women to watch at the 2016 Paralympic GamesPhoto, Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press.

Michelle Stilwell, 42

Hometown: Parksville, B.C.



Sport: Para-athletics



Why we’re watching: Stilwell is a Paralympic pioneer of sorts. She was a member of Canada’s gold medal–winning wheelchair basketball team in Sydney, the first female quadriplegic to compete in the sport at the Paralympic level. Complications from her spinal-cord injury forced Stilwell to switch sports in 2000, so she took up wheelchair racing prior to Beijing 2008 and brought home two golds. At the 2012 London Games, she nabbed gold and silver in the event. Currently, she’s the only Canadian woman to have Paralympic gold medals for two separate summer sports.

10 Canadian women to watch at the 2016 Paralympic GamesPhoto, Matthew Murnaghan/Canadian Paralympic Committee.

Katarina Roxon, 23

Hometown: Corner Brook, N.L.



Sport: Para-swimming



Why we’re watching: Born with her left arm missing below the elbow, Roxon was placed in swimming lessons at five — a pastime her parents considered an essential skill. At 15, she became the youngest swimmer on the Canadian Paralympic team sent to Beijing, but this past year was perhaps the best yet of the 23-year-old's career (which bodes well for Rio). In 2015, Roxon won a total of six medals, including gold in the 100m breaststroke at the Toronto Parapan Am Games.

10 Canadian women to watch at the 2016 Paralympic GamesPhoto, Scott Grant/Canadian Paralympic Committee.

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Chantal Beauchesne, 32

Hometown: St. Isidore, Ont.



Sport: Sitting volleyball



Why we’re watching: The Rio Games will mark the first Paralympic performance for Canada’s sitting volleyball team, and Beauchesne is one of the team’s breakout stars. The Ontario native didn't mince words when asked about the role volleyball played in her life after her left leg was amputated following a motorcycle accident in 2009: “Sport saved me,” she said. “Without [it], it would have been difficult to rehabilitate as fast as I did and accept what had happened to me.”

10 Canadian women to watch at the 2016 Paralympic GamesPhoto, Scott Grant/Canadian Paralympic Committee.

Lauren Barwick, 38

Hometown: Reddick, Florida



Sport: Para-dressage



Why we’re watching: Before she became one of Canada’s most successful equestrian athletes, Barwick (born in Langley, B.C.) made a name for herself as a professional stuntwoman, specializing in horsemanship. She swapped small-screen fame for the Paralympic kind: Barwick has won more medals at major games than any Canadian rider to date and was inducted into the Canadian Disability Hall of Fame last year. She's got a new ride just in time for Rio. His name is Onyx.


10 Canadian women to watch at the 2016 Paralympic GamesPhoto, Phillip MacCallum/Canadian Paralympic Committee.

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The Olympic highs and lows that defined the 2016 Games for women
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