BY: KAROLINA URBAN
Canadian para-cyclist Marie-Claude Molnar grew up with a dream of representing Canada at the Olympics. At the age of 29, that dream became a reality when she won a bronze medal at the London Paralympic Games.
“It was incredible,” Molnar said about arriving in London. “The first thing that I noticed when we got to the Athletes’ Village, I told myself, ‘wow what I am doing here?’ I was just amazed and surprised to be surrounded by elite athletes.”
Now the St.-Hubert, QB resident is well into her second-round at the Para Pan Am Games, where she ranks seventh in the cycling track events and has come in fifth at the women’s 500 meter time trial C1-C5 finals. Molnar will be competing for a final time on Thursday, August 13th.
“I think everybody can try something that they love and see if they succeed at it,” Molnar said. “That’s the only way to find out, to try.”
What makes Molnar a particularly inspiring athlete are the challenges she has faced and how she has overcome them through her work ethic and determination.
Molnar suffered a brain injury after being struck by a car in 2005. Soon after, with her love of sports guiding the way, she contacted Lyne Bessette, a Canadian Olympic cyclist, who put her into contact with National team coach Eric Van den Eynde, who she continues to train with to this day..
Perhaps it’s Molnar’s outlook on life that gave her the courage and determination to pursue a cycling career. There is an inherent dedication and sacrifice which comes with being a para-athlete and representing Canada. Molnar trains five to six days a week, incorporating two or tree specific types of training into her schedule.
“[One type of] training [I do] is where you see what level you are at, and then you go push your limits.” Molnar said.
But despite the long training hours, for Molnar, and many athletes like her, sports are a get-away from the demands of life.
“What I love about cycling, every time I get on my bike, I forget everything else,” Molnar said. “For me cycling is liberty. [When I ride] that’s all I can think about.”
Molnar says as a para-cyclist with a brain injury, she faces specific challenges in her sport.
“The main challenge is racing strategy, “Molnar said. “Like taking the right wheel or riding the fastest line, knowing when to attack or when not to.”
Molnar says her sport has become more competitive since the London Games, as more countries have begun to develop their para-cycling programs. For Toronto 2015, there’s the added bonus of being in her home country for the Games.
“Having the chance to compete at home in front of our fans I’m pretty sure it’s going absolutely incredible. The energy is going to be crazy,“ Molnar said.
Karolina Urban is a former University of Toronto and Canadian Women’s Hockey League player. Currently she is a PhD student at the Concussion Centre in Holland Bloorview Kids Rehab Hospital.