(Photo of Valérie Grand’Maison by Matthew Murnaghan, courtesy Canadian Paralympic Committee)
LONDON – Valérie Grand’Maison, a member of the McGill women's swim team, and Peter Carpenter, her head coach with the McGill Martlets, will take part in the Opening Ceremonies at the Paralympic Games in London today.
Another McGillian serving in an official capacity at the Games is Alison Korn, a former McGill basketball player and rower, who is part of the Team Canada mission staff in the capacity of press chief.
A year ago, Grand’Maison, who is visually impaired, thought her chances of competing at a second Paralympic Games were remote after suffering a serious shoulder injury.
But the 23-year-old Montreal resident has landed in London, the
shoulder issue is now under control through treatment and therapy
and her training is bringing her a lot of confidence.
‘’My training times are very fast,’’ said Grand’Maison, Canada’s most successful swimmer at the 2008 Paralympic Games with three gold, two silver and a bronze. ‘’I feel in really great shape and it’s very comfortable for me here in London. I can just focus on training, resting and being ready for the Games.’’
A shoulder tear in 2011 put a big dent in her preparations for London.
‘’It’s incredible what I’ve accomplished here this year. I was almost ready to hang up the swimsuit, I couldn’t stand dealing with the pain. But that Paralympic goal was in my head. There were highs and lows on the way but I stuck to the plan and it worked.’’
Even without dealing with an injury, matching an incredible performance such as the one in Beijing would be challenging for any swimmer. It’s something Grand’Maison isn’t going to spend her time worrying about.
‘’We are here to have fun,’’ she said. ‘’I was lucky to have that experience in Beijing and it will be one of the highlights of my life. Now I’m really taking in the atmosphere, savouring these wonderful experiences because I nearly didn’t make it here.’’
Grand’Maison, who holds three world records, is scheduled to race in four events in the S13 class: the 50 freestyle on September 1, the 100 freestyle on September 2, the 200 individual medley on September 7 and the 100 breaststroke on September 8.
‘’If I can beat the times I posted in Beijing, I’ll be thrilled. I know it’s possible now.’’
"Valerie is amongst the best swimmers in the world in the S13 class for visually disabled athletes," says Carpenter. "She won several medals in Beijing and is hoping to come home with the same from here in London. She has worked extremely hard over the past three years to get to where she is now. As her coach, I have never seen her in better physical condition."
Earl Zukerman, McGill Athletics & Recreation
Louis Daigneault, Canadian Paralympic Committee