Colette Bourgonje Wins First-Ever Paralympic Medal for Canada on Home Snow

    
    - Silver medal victory brings career total to nine for decorated
    Paralympian -
    

WHISTLER, BC, March 14 /CNW Telbec/ - Colette Bourgonje put her name in the history books as the first-ever Canadian to win a Paralympic medal on home snow after she claimed the silver in the women's 10-kilometre sit-ski race at Whistler Paralympic Park on Sunday.

Arguably one of Canada's most decorated Paralympic athletes, the 48-year-old Bourgonje clocked a time of 31 minutes 49.8 to win her fifth medal at a Paralympic Winter Games.

"Wow, I'm shocked and I can't believe it," said the nine-time Paralympian. "Age is nothing, attitude is everything and I lived by that today.

I am still racing because I wanted to compete at a Paralympics in Canada and I'm just so proud to have done this in front of all Canadians. I share this medal with the entire country."

The only Canadian athlete to have competed in all five Paralympic Winter Games to go along with four Summer Paralympics, the Saskatoon resident has a collection of nine medals to her credit.

Hammering the double-poling up the hills of the challenging 3.3-kilometre loop at Whistler Paralympic Park, Bourgonje was on-pace to win the gold medal at the mid-way point, but lost valuable time after crashing on the second of three laps. A testament to her resiliency as a person, she bounced back on track and held on for the silver medal.

"Our wax techs were awesome and I owe a lot of this medal to them because these skis were flying today," said Bourgonje. "I may be standing on the podium, but this medal is for our entire team to share. We were all in this together."

Liudmila Vauchok, of Belarus, won the gold with a time of 30:52.9. Olena Iurkovska, of the Ukraine, was third at 32:43.5.

A longtime resident of Saskatoon, the flatlander made a strategic decision this year to relocate to Canmore, Alta. and take advantage of training at the higher altitudes of the challenging Canmore Nordic Centre - the home training base for Canada's Cross-Country Ski Team.

"It is one of the best facilities in the world and Paralympians and Olympians need the Nordic Centre to succeed," she said following the medal ceremony. "Our team has received so much support in Canada through our personal sponsors, government and Own the Podium. All Canadians have made the difference for us, and I am so grateful for everything we have as athletes today."

Earlier in the day, two other Canadians made their Paralympic debut in the men's 15-kilometre sit-ski competition. Lou Gibson, of Langley, B.C., finished in 27th spot, while Sebastien Fortier, of Charlesbourg, Que., was 29th at 51:33.6.

Russia's Irek Zaripov powered his way to the gold medal with a time of 41:01.1. Zaripov's countryman, Roman Petushikov, was second at 41:11.1, while Italy's Enzo Masiello rounded out the men's podium in the bronze medal position.

The Nordic events continue on Monday at Whistler Paralympic Park with the standing and visually impaired distance races.

COMPLETE RESULTS: http://www.vancouver2010.com/paralympic-games/schedule---results/

About the Canadian Paralympic Committee

The Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) is a non-profit, private organisation with 43 member sports organisations dedicated to strengthening the Paralympic Movement. The CPC is responsible for creating an optimal high-performance environment for the Canadian Paralympic athletes to win at Paralympic and ParaPanAmerican Games. By supporting Canadian Paralympic athletes and promoting their success, the CPC inspires all Canadians with a physical disability to get involved in sport through programs delivered by its member organisations. For more information, visit www.paralympic.ca.

Follow the Canadian Paralympic Committee by becoming a fan on Facebook, and following on Twitter.

SOURCE Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC)

For further information: For further information: Chris Dornan, Media Attache - Nordic Skiing, Canadian Paralympic Committee, T: (281) 703-4394


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