Pine Islanders from St. James City to Bokeelia may have noticed a female para-cyclist peddling from one end of the island to the other and back again five days a week. Shelley Gautier is training for the paralympics to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in the summer of 2016.
Para-cycling is a disability cycling process governed by the Union Cyclist Internationale (UCI) covering four functional disability types. The classification system includes classes for handcycles for people who have lower limb mobility issues.
“I am Canadian from Toronto,” Gautier said. “I was always involved in sports when I was in school. Then when I went to university I participated in ice hockey and soccer. Then when I went to the University of Toronto I got involved in mountain biking. I have a physical education degree and a physiotherapy degree. Before my accident I was a practicing physiotherapist.”
Para-cyclist Shelley Gautier is training on Pine Island for the 2016 paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
In 2001 Gautier, at the age of 23, was severely injured in a mountain bike accident.
“I was in Vermont on the day before my first wedding anniversary and I was mountain biking on mountain snow and I wiped out,” Gautier said. “I don’t remember much, I spent six weeks in a coma and eight months in the hospital. I am paralyzed on my right side. If I was in a wheel chair it would have been better for me.”
Gautier’s disability hasn’t stopped her from cycling.
When she came home from the hospital she purchased a recumbent tricycle and by 2007 she was competing as an amateur. By 2010 Gautier started competing at an elite level.
“I got involved in raising money for different charities,” Gautier said.
“The Rio paralympics is two years away,” Gautier said. “I am also training for the PanAm/Parapan Am Games in my hometown of Toronto. I will be cycling through parts of my own neighborhood and competing where friends and family can come out and support me in the race. I will represent Team Canada.”
The PanAm/Parapan Am Games in Toronto will have four types of bikes: traditional, tandem, tricycles, and hand ergometers.
“I am hoping that when other disabled people see me they will realize they can get out there biking also.”
“When we needed a winter training environment that was quiet I knew Pine Island would be the ideal place for us,” trainer Alan Greer said. “It is impossible to train in the Cape or Fort Myers because of the traffic but Pine Island has turned out even better that we expected. Not only the environment but the people have been so supportive.”
“I train 5 days a week with Mondays and Thursdays off,” Gautier said. “I would like to thank the people of Pine Island first for putting in the cycle paths. Those paths create a safe environment for all cyclists and in addition to the paths the people have been very kind. Coming to Pine Island has been great.”