Grand'Maison takes two Paralympic silver medals, two more events to come

McGill's Valérie Grand'Maison wins a pair of silver medals in the pool at the Paralympic Games in London this past weekend. Grand'Maison will compete in two more events.
Valérie Grand'Maison receiving her Silver Medal in the Women's S13 50m Freestyle Final at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. / Photo: Matthew Murnaghan/Canadian Paralympic Committee

By McGill Reporter Staff

Valérie Grand’Maison of the McGill swim team followed her silver medal performance in the women’s S13 50-metre freestyle on Saturday with another silver in the women’s s13 100-metre freestyle on Sunday at the Paralympic Games in London.

In both races, the 23-year-old native of Fleurimont, Que., was edged out by longtime rival Kelly Becherer of the U.S.

Grand’Maison, who is visually impaired, got her Games off on the right track in the 50-metre freestyle, posting a personal best time of 27.91 seconds that was bested only by Becherer of the U.S. (27.46). Prue Watt of Australia was third in 27.94.

“I’ve never won [the 50-metre freestyle], so for me, coming second is still a big success,” said Grand’Maison, Canada’s most successful Para swimmer at the 2008 Games with six medals including three gold.  “To go a best time for the first time in four years is something to be proud of.”

The performance also gave Grand’Maison some big confidence for the rest of the Games. She was hampered by a shoulder injury that derailed her 2011 season.

“I’m a lot less stressed than I thought I would be,” said Grand’Maison, a psychology and history senior, who is training in London with with McGill swim coach Peter Carpenter.  “It was actually a lot of fun.  There was a British girl in the race and that really got the crowd into it.”

In the 100-metre freestyle, however, there was little silver lining in Grand’Maison’s second-place finish.

“I’m going to be emotional for the next few hours,” Grand’Maison told the CBC. “It was a close one. I race Kelly, the American, all the time. It’s always a close finish. It’s always been a few tenths or a few hundredths. She’s a way better sprinter than I am, so her first half is really strong compared to mine.

“Tonight, I tried to stay with her because I wanted it so bad. I tried my best and I was with her at the 50. I knew it was my time to shine. I just didn’t have it in me.”

Grand’Maison is scheduled to race in two other events in the S13 class: the 200 individual medley on Sept. 7 and the 100 breaststroke on Sept. 8.