Sport: Wheelchair racing
Specialties: 800m, 1500m, 5,000m, marathon
Training Location: Sherbrooke University
Trainer: Jean Laroche
Club: Club Athletics Sherbrooke
Diane was born January 9, 1971, and spent her childhood on a farm in the small village of Lac-des-Aigles, near Rimouski, Quebec. The seventh of eight children (five boys and three girls), Diane developed a distinctly bold personality and a taste for adventure.
From an early age, Diane followed in the footsteps of her five older brothers, all avid sports enthusiasts, and joined in the sports they played, namely softball and broomball. Once she entered high school, Diane developed a keen interest in several new sports, including basketball, badminton, downhill skiing, tennis, and handball in particular, which she played until her last year of high school.
At age 17, an all terrain vehicle accident deprived Diane of the use of her legs and halted her activities temporarily. But a year later, her adventurous spirit still strong, Diane decided to leave the Lower St. Lawrence region for the Eastern Townships. It was at this stage in her life that she entered the discipline of competitive wheelchair racing.
With her active, courageous and defiant nature, Diane decided to take fate into her own hands and develop her full potential. Her determination and courage driving her, Diane pushed back against limitations and obstacles in her way. She has been working with the Bérubé-Toutant team, real estate brokers affiliated with Royal Lepage Évolution, for the past 10 years, and she has been competing in her sport with all the energy and dedication it requires.
Diane joined the national team in 1994. Since then, she has proudly represented her country in several national and international competitions, including the Atlanta and Sydney Paralympic Games as well as the 2004 Athens Paralympic Games, where she earned two bronze medals in the 400m and 1,500m. In addition, Diane placed fourth in her first Olympic Games, in Athens, in the exhibition event (800m).
Diane has also participated in several marathons around the world over the years. From Boston and New York to Japan, South Africa and Switzerland, Diane has held the Canadian record for this distance for the past several years.
In 2006, Diane earned her first Commonwealth Games medal (a bronze) in Melbourne, Australia, during her second appearance at that event. For a second straight year, she finished second in the Boston marathon. In September of the same year, the World Championships were held in Assen, the Netherlands; Diane returned home with three medals. She earned bronze in the 5,000m, silver in the 1,500m, and her incredible hard work paid off as she became the World Champion in marathon.
In 2007, in addition to several great performances throughout the year, two very special moments for Diane came as she set new Canadian records in the 5,000m and the marathon.
“Gold Medal Disappointment”
In September 2008, the Paralympic Games were held in Beijing, China. During this competition, Diane suffered an unimaginable disappointment, the likes of which had never been seen before in competition. In the 5000 m wheelchair final, Diane won the gold medal… only to lose it due to an appeal submitted by 3 countries’ associations after a terrible collision that involved several of the racers.
The appeal committee’s ultimate decision was to invalidate the results of the original final and set a second final race for several days later; this was on top of Diane’s already jam-packed race schedule, not to mention how it affected her psychological preparation.
The race should never have been re-scheduled, since collisions and falls in wheelchair racing are not uncommon. Final races are never re-run, in any sport.
But the real problem with the appeal decision was that it occurred only after the medal ceremony had taken place. There appears to have been a miscommunication between the appeal committee and the medal ceremony committee.
So, after having won the race before a crowd of 90,000 spectators (winning her first gold medal ever at a Paralympic Games), risen to the highest step of the podium, received her medal and bouquet and heard her national anthem played, Diane learned just a few minutes later that the race would be held again!
Diane went from a moment of glory to one of profound disappointment in an instant; this was an incredible injustice and a cruel gesture. The race went ahead a second time and Diane finished in the second-place position, just one one-hundredth of a second away from the gold medal…
At the Beijing Games, Diane won 2 other bronze medals, in the 400 and 800 metres. While these were the best Games Diane had ever experienced, they were also the hardest emotionally.
2009 is a post-Olympic year for Diane, and she will participate in several marathons as well as track competitions. She is currently preparing for the next Commonwealth Games, which will be held in Delhi, India, in the fall of 2010.