Senator Chantal Petitclerc

Wisdom from an Inspiring Canadian

Senator Chantal Petitclerc encapsulates what it means to live a life unlimited. At age 13, she lost the use of both her legs following an accident when a heavy barn door fell, fracturing her spine at the L1–T12 vertebrae.

“Early in life I had to learn how to take a challenge and turn it into an opportunity.”

Petitclerc’s perspective gave her the confidence to set new goals.

“When life feels out of control, the one thing you can control is your own attitude. In life, we don’t always choose what happens to us, but we always choose what we are going to do with it. It’s easy to find excuses. Our strength is really to empower ourselves with the responsibility of our choices.”

She became an extraordinary athlete, winning 21 medals at the Paralympic Games, including 14 gold, as well as numerous medals at the World Championships and the Commonwealth Games. Petitclerc retired from high-performance athletics in 2008.

“If you are not moving forward, you don’t learn; you don’t grow. I enjoy taking a chance and adventure.”

A leader in sport and a powerful advocate for people with disabilities, Petitclerc is a Companion of the Order of Canada and a Knight of the Order of Quebec. She received the Lou Marsh Trophy for Canadian athlete of the year, was inducted into the Canadian Paralympic Hall of Fame and holds four honorary doctorates. At age 48, the Quebec senator balances a demanding career, family life and her own health.

“Growing older has many challenges, but they are amplified when a person has physical disabilities – there are concerns about losing independence – I am really conscious of that, and I believe I have a responsibility to grow old well. You need to take care of your body if you want your body to take care of you.”

Petitclerc inspires others to see obstacles as opportunities and offers a unique perspective on embracing an unlimited mindset.

“I am proud that I do what I want to do and I also stay the person I want to be. In the midst of the day-to-day commitments, it is easy to lose track of yourself and your sense of adventure. Knowing who we are and what we want for ourselves is what we need to be happy: If you can do and be who you want to be, that is unlimited.”

Originally published in Issue 01 of YouAreUNLTD Magazine.