Shelley Gautier followed up her gold medal win in Maniago, Italy by taking silver in Switzerland. (Image: Canadian Paralympic Committee/Facebook)
Shelley Gautier followed up her gold medal win in Maniago, Italy by taking silver in Switzerland. (Image: Canadian Paralympic Committee/Facebook)

For Shelley Gautier, the opportunity to compete on her home soil of Toronto last summer, when the Parapan Am Games were underway, was an honour in itself. She spoke of being motivated by hometown crowds, how the racing in front of Toronto spectators was like a steady tailwind at her back through the competition.

“I came back here and it’s great,” she told Canadian Cycling Magazine last August. “because people who have never seen me race had the opportunity to cheer me on.”

Now, she’s been honoured by a hometown crowd once again, only in a different but equally meaningful way. Recognizing the power and athleticism she displayed at the 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games, the Toronto Sport Hall of Honour has named Gautier its Female Athlete of the Year with a Disability for 2015. Her induction was made official at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre in Scarborough, Ont. on Thursday, Feb. 25.

The story of Shelley Gautier, of course, is a testament to her against-all-odds tenacity and the inspiring comeback she made as an athlete, after a mountain bike accident sidelined the practicing physiotherapist and cross-country athlete with severe head injuries in 2001. After eight months of recovery and rehabilitation, she mounted a comeback a year after her accident, and by 2007, she was clocking 50 km at races. Two years later, she became the first female T1 paracyclist to compete at the international level.

With those events, she began an increasingly legendary arc in her career that led her to road race and individual time trial wins at the 2014 UCI world championships in South Carolina, a series of provincial recognition, and last year, the honour of being the second Canadian ever to be nominated for the prestigious Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability Award. Competition at the 2015 Parapan Am Games, where Gautier took the world time trial title and road race gold, followed that summer.

As she receives her most recent, well-deserved recognition from the Toronto Sport Hall of Honour—alongside other names like Milos Raonic, for example—Gautier is currently training with the 2016 Rio Olympics in her sights, an event for which she hopes to qualify.

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