Breaking barriers isn’t always easy but Karen March makes it seem that way as she has continued to pave her way in wheelchair sports. A 1988 car accident set Karen on an athletic journey like no other when, 10 years later, she was introduced to wheelchair sports.
Over the years, she has become a highly accomplished Paralympian who blazed a trail of podium finishes all over the world in both the sports of Athletics and Paracycling.
At the Paralympic Games in Athens, Karen took part in Athletics competing in the 200m T52 event where she finished 8th and the 400m T52 event where she finished 10th. She had an 8th place finish in the 100m at the 2002 World Championships where she also finished 7th in the 400m. She then “retired” from Athletics, taking up cycling for recreation. That recreational path led her to compete at the highest international level in the sport.
In Paracycling, competitors in her class use their arms to power a recumbent three-wheeled racing bike. The hand-powered bicycle has a gear-shift system controlled by her breathing and a sophisticated braking system that allows her to slow down by back-pedalling. Her most recent competitive bike was developed by CanAssist, a University of Victoria organization that develops and delivers technologies, programs and services that improve the quality of life for those with disabilities. CanAssist’s engineering team modified the bike so Karen could compete on a level playing field.
With her level of disability, Karen would not have been able to compete at the World Cup without the modifications to her bike. She literally opened up an entire class to all quadriplegic racers with her success.
“Surrounding myself with ‘can do’ people who think outside the box has led me to many adventures,” says Karen.
In 2011, she won the overall World Cup title in Paracycling for class H1, giving her the distinction of earning the first-ever World Cup leader’s jersey after her dominant performance. In 2011, she also earned two gold medals at the UCI Paracycling World Cup in Spain by finishing first in her class in a 36km road race and a 13km time trial.
She was the 2012 recipient of the Athlete of the Year award at the 2012 Women in Sport Celebration in Victoria
Karen retired from competitive Paracycling in 2012 after choosing not to compete in the London Paralympics. She is a true believer in the promotion and support of women in sport and continues to give back to wheelchair sports
"What I now treasure after retirement are the friendships and contacts I have made over the years,” she adds. “They still feed me as I continue to support sport on many levels.”
SPONSORED BY PISE