Colette Bourgonje
Paralympics (1998)

Colette has represented Canada as wheelchair racer at the Summer Paralympics at Barcelona, Spain and Atlanta and has competed as a cross-country skier at the Winter Paralympics in Albertville, France, Lillehammer, Norway and Nagano, Japan.

Colette was born on Jan. 17, 1962, at Porcupine Plain where she attended elementary and high school and played hockey with her cousins for three years. One of her teenage hobbies was riding motorcycle but she also embraced track and field, where twice attended national championships.

She suffered a broken back, among a number of injuries, in a car accident on April 21, 1980, but her confinement to a wheelchair didn't stop her from pursuing sports interests.

Colette trained diligently, preparing herself for the 100 metres, 200 metres, 400 metres, 800 metres and 1,500 metres and she would win medals in all events at a Canadian level and more at an international level. She raced at the Canadians championships and British Commonwealth games in 1990, won all five distances in Canada in 1991 and four in 1996 and was often in the medals internationally.

Colette won bronze medals in the 100 metres and 800 metres at the Barcelona Paralympics in 1992 and she won bronze in the 100 metres and the 200 metres at the Atlanta Paralympics in 1996.

Colette also broadened her sports horizons, starting with cross-country skiing as a hobby but eventually deciding to become competitive on the snow. Training sessions in Europe led to her first Winter Paralympics, where she finished fourth in each of three events - the 2.5-kilometre, five kilometre and 10 kilometre distances - at Lillehammer, Norway.

She competed twice in the Winter Paralympics at Albertville, France, finishing sixth in both the 12.5-kilometre and five kilometre skis.

Colette was a popular figure at the 1998 Paralympics at Nagano, surrounded admiringly by Japanese school children. She had her best-ever Winter games, winning a silver medal at 2.5- kilometres and then following up with a silver at five kilometres. Colette gives the victory signal after carrying the Canadian flag in the closing ceremonies of the largest Games ever.

Colette has been an elementary school teacher since 1989 and has special memories at Brunskill and the relay teams she coached during Brunskill's indoor programming.