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Convocation 2015: Chantal Petitclerc receives an honorary degree from U of T

The University of Toronto is recognizing Chantal Petitclerc – one of the most celebrated track athletes in history and the only Canadian to have won gold medals at the Olympics, Paralympics and Commonwealth Games – with an honorary degree.

Peticlerc received the degree at the convocation ceremony for students graduating from the Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education, School of Graduate Studies and Faculty of Information, June 12, 2015.

Born on December 15, 1969 in Saint-Marc-des-Carrières, Québec, Petitclerc lost the use of her legs following an accident at the age of 13. Her high school physical education teacher, Gaston Jacques, would have a decisive impact on her life by encouraging her to take up swimming in order to develop her strength and stamina. This was Petitclerc’s first encounter with sport and training.

Four years later, she would discover wheelchair athletics, paving the way for a long and very successful career which would take her to the Barcelona Games in 1992 and, ultimately, to the Beijing Games in 2008.

She competed in five Paralympic Games (Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney, Athens, Beijing), winning 21 Paralympic medals (including 14 gold medals), an Olympic gold medal in the 800m (demonstration sport) and breaking a total of 26 world records on every distance from the 100m to the 1500m.

While the Beijing Games proved to be the last time she participated in track competitions, Petitclerc nevertheless continued to train and has taken part in several handicycling races with the Canadian team. In 2012, she tried for the first time what could be a new career path as coach and mentor of the UK track and field team at the London Paralympic Games. In 2014, she was Team Canada’s Chef de Mission for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and she will also be the Chef de Mission for Canada’s Paralympic Team in Rio (2016).

Petitclerc is a highly sought-after speaker across Canada and abroad. She is active in various Paralympic athletics and sports organizations and works as a spokesperson for Défi Sportif in Montréal and as an ambassador for the international Right to Play organization.

Among her many accolades, Petitclerc has received the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canadian athlete of the year, the Laureus International Award, a Star on Canada’s Walk of Fame and the United States Sports Academy’s (USSA) Juan Antonio Samaranch IOC Disabled Athlete Award. She has been named female athlete of the year by the International Paralympic Committee and sports personality of the year by La Presse. She has also been appointed Chevalier de l’Ordre national du Québec and Companion of the Order of Canada.