ith four gold medals and a Canadian record in her pocket after less than a month’s work, Windsor’s Virginia McLachlan will enter the London Paralympics with cachet.
Earlier this month, Virginia McLachlan won two gold medals and set a Canadian record at the locally held Boiling Point Track Classic at the University of Windsor.
For the Windsor Legion track team member, the achievement simply solidified her footing as a world-class athlete already packed and ready to road-trip to the 2012 London Paralympic Games.
At Boiling Point, McLachlan set the record in the T35 200-metre event with a time of 34.93 seconds, and also won in the T35 100-metres.
Two weeks earlier, her event group coach had informed McLachlan that she had been designated as a member of the Canadian paralympic track team. A day later, on July 1, Athletics Canada released a press release listing McLachlan as one of six women selected for the Paralympics.
That decision was based, not solely, but ultimately on her performance at the Canadian trials at the end of June, where she also won gold medals in both the T35 100- and 200-metre events.
The decision was made easy because of her track record at events throughout the summer, where McLachlan continually met the Canadian elite standard. The elite standard is set by Athletics Canada and it’s a lot harder to reach that the A standard set by the international Paralympic committee.
“We had to get that elite standard and then be persistent throughout the year and show Athletics Canada that we were capable of making team,” McLachlan said.
“I was competing well throughout the summer. I did pretty well time wise.”
McLachlan’s coach Ben Warnock saw early indications that the Canadian trials were within reach. Ultimately, McLachlan’s performances gained her the No. 3 spot in the world in both her events.
“So, we were always going to go to the Canadian trials,” Warnock said, “Every race she did this year was an A-plus standard. So it was definitely looking good. We did as many competitions as we could to get the standard just so (she) would look good as a selection for the Paralympics.”
But the road to London wasn’t always so well-graded. McLachlan, whose previous focus was the long jump event, had something of the fortune of being reclassified from a T37 para-athlete to a T35.
“Every year when you go to a world class event you get re-evaluated,” Warnock said. “And Virginia got re-evaluated last year and they found that she had more physical disabilities compared to her previous class.”
Her new T35 designation, however, didn’t have a long jump component at the world class level. McLachlan and Warnock scrapped long jump and began to focus solely on the 100- and 200- metre events, where previouslyMcLachlan had shown promise.
“She was still running the 100 and 200 when she was long jumping, and her times were good,” Warnock said. “But, once she switched her class, she was running the A standard every race.”
Another factor that motivated McLachlan this summer was her misfortune as a long-jumper at the IPC World Championships last year, before she was reclassified.
“I triple faulted there,” McLachlan recalled. “It was awful, obviously. I was not myself. I thought everybody was going to be really disappointed in me when I came home. I sat down with Ben and we talked about it.”
Looking back, McLachlan sees how failure pushed her forward. After the time of her classification change, she took her new T35 ticket and promptly earned silver medals in both the 100- and 200-metres and the 2011 Parapan American in November in Mexico.
“I was always doing the 100 and 200 so it wasn’t a hard transition.”
Now with London on the horizon, McLachlan will focus on keeping fit and focused for the world stage.
“I might be in some twilight (meets) in Ontario,” she said. “I like racing with able-bodied athletes as well because they push me to go faster. But mainly its about training.”
She’s also keeping an eye on her competition.
“I saw a couple of the girls at the Pan-Ams in November,” McLachlan said. “And, I know some of the other girls and I know what they can run from seeing their results but a lot of them I’ve never raced against.”
“It kind of makes me nervous a little bit, but I’m just going in confident knowing what I can do. I kind of like breaking my goals down. First, it’s to make final and then it’s to medal … And I don’t care what colour medal.”