Robbi Weldon aiming for road race repeat with new pilot
Defending gold medallist now partnered with Audrey Lemieux
RIO DE JANEIRO — The first day of competition at the Rio Paralympics marked the four-year anniversary of a very special day in the life of four-time Paralympian Robbi Weldon.
That was the day in 2012, when the Thunder Bay, Ont., native stood on top of the podium as Paralympic gold medallist in the women's road race for visually impaired athletes with her long time pilot, Olympian Lyne Bessette.
With Bessette now retired from competition, the 41-year-old Weldon is in Rio looking for gold a second time, now with her new pilot Audrey Lemieux.
The duo was first matched up together last year prior to the 2015 World Championships. Lemieux, as the guide, sits in the front seat while Weldon sits in the back of the tandem bike. They were an instant fit.
"We had been teammates for the past three years so we knew one another and how competitive and how intense we each were," said the 2012 gold medalist. "When we got on the bike it was exciting to see how far we could push ourselves and perfect performances."
The 31-year-old Lemieux, a first-time Paralympian who competed for Canada at the 2005 World Cycling championships and 2006 Commonwealth Games, concurs that she and the Games veteran Weldon are a strong match.
"On and off the bike we are on the same page all the time," said Lemieux. "We have fun and I like working with Robbi because I know for every race that she is there with all her heart."
The tandem captured a silver medal in the time trial at the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games, a third and fourth place finish in the time trial and road race at the 2015 World Cup event in South Africa and fifth place in both disciplines at the 2016 World Cup in Belgium.
In order to help build this strong cycling synergy with Lemieux, who lives in Montreal, Weldon decided to move to Ottawa in January with her 16-year-old daughter, Keegan, and her 12-year-old son, Alexander.
"[Making the move] gave us weekly time together training and have more access to coaching on a regular basis," said Weldon, who also competed at the 2010 and 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in para-Nordic skiing.
Their efforts led to them producing a strong sixth place showing in Rio on Wednesday (Sept. 14) in the women's B class time trial in a 17-tandem competition.
Weldon and Lemieux will attempt to elevate their biking game even more when they attempt to defend the road race gold medal for Canada on Saturday. The competition starts at 12:05 p.m. ET.
With files from the Canadian Paralympic Committee