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Champion cyclist competing in 2021 Tokyo Paralympics trains on Pine Island

By PAULETTE LeBLANC - | Apr 7, 2021

Cyclist Shelley Gautier. PHOTO PROVIDED

pleblanc@breezenewspapers.com

Eight-time World Champion snowbird Shelley Gautier is a Canadian Paralympic medalist in para-cycling who has been racing competitively for 11 years. In the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Paralympics, she won the bronze for Canada. Since the 2020 Olympics have been postponed until 2021, she’s now getting ready to head to Tokyo to compete again.

“I’ve been working really hard the past five years. In the winter I come to Pine Island where I can be outside every day, which is really great,” said Gautier, who has a home in St. James City. “The people on Pine Island are all really wonderful and they support me. The family at the new bike shop are great. They all help me by doing any tweaking or little things that I need with my bike.”

In addition to Island Bikeworks in Bokeelia, other sponsors for Gautier include, Shimano Bikes in Japan and Terry Bicycles in New Hampshire.

“She has six different bikes,” said trainer Alan Greer. “All the bikes have to be kept in excellent shape. It is a constant process to keep her racing bikes and training bikes all functional for her training five days a week.”

According to Greer, Gautier trains often on Burnt Store Road where he says there is very little vehicular traffic, as her speed became too great to continue utilizing the bike path. Once a week, however, Greer says she does do a recovery ride on the island’s bike path — an easy ride after four days of rigorous training. Because in Tokyo there are significant hills, he explains, this winter they prepared by going to the Sanibel Causeway eight times per week to climb the hill.

“By using the Sanibel Causeway,” said Greer, “Shelley was able to do hill training. It worked very well for her. She is a Canadian team member who is able to train outdoors all year round because she has a residence in St. James City.

After her head injury, Gautier spent a year in recovery and got started in disabled sailing.

“That got me out into the world,” said Gautier. “I thought maybe I could get into tricycle riding so I rode a recumbent trike for a few years and fund raised and raised $3K a year for the Heart and Stroke Foundation and then I thought I want to try and see if can race.”

Shortly after she realized she could, in fact, race competitively, Gautier got into the Paralympics and now she’s competed twice with Tokyo next on her to-do list.

“It’s really nice to be able to come down to St. James City and socialize with people,” said Gautier. “Just being there is wonderful. I hope I can inspire people to get out and go riding.”