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Why Canada deserves to lose Petitclerc to the U.K.

Canada's Chantal Petitclerc smiles after crossing the finish line in the women's 400m T54 final at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games September 12, 2008.


So highly decorated Canadian athlete Chantal Petitclerc has eschewed her home country to coach in the United Kingdom a scant eight months before the Paralympic Olympic Games in England.

Well, tough bananas to anyone who is upset by that move.

That's the price you're going to pay if you're not going to ensure some sort of viable employment for athletes in a coaching capacity once their competitive careers have wound down.

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Especially competitors the calibre of Petitclerc, a Paralympic legend and one of the most decorated athletes of all time with 14 Paralympic gold medals.

Use them or lose them.

"I think if she has the opportunity to coach and kind of expand her horizons I think that's fantastic," Canadian world-class wheelchair basketball athlete Tracey Ferguson told the Globe and Mail. "I think it's a huge loss for Canada, obviously.

"If there had been a way to engage her in a coaching role in Canada that would have been fantastic for us."

That's the least Canada should be doing for track athletes such as Petitclerc, who earned her gold medal haul and heaped glory on her country in a career that spanned five Paralympic Games, from Barcelona to Beijing.

Five of her golds were earned at the 2008 Beijing Games, after which the wheelchair racer decided it was time to wind down her competitive track career.

For that medal haul, Petitclerc, now 41, was awarded the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada's athlete of the year and was inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame in 2010, the first female Paralympian to be so honoured.

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Petitclerc has also been installed in the Order of Canada and even has a star on Canada's Walk of Fame.

And now she's going to work in Britain to help bolster that country's medal hopes this summer.

"She's a brilliant athlete and the U.K. athletes are definitely going to benefit from her experience and knowledge," Ferguson noted.

Petitclerc had been a member of the Canadian Paralympic Committee and the Team Canada mission for the 2012 Games in London, both volunteer positions according to Armstrong, who used to train with Petitclerc and considers her a good friend.

The Quebec native tendered her resignation from both roles on Monday when news of her appointment in Britain became official.

It appears the move has ruffled some bureaucratic feathers.

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Henry Storgaard, chief executive of the Canadian Paralympic Committee, told Postmedia News that losing Petitclerc to a rival nation is a blow for Canada.

"In the ideal circumstance, I don't think you would want that," Storgaard was quoted as saying.

Perhaps Storgaard's committee should have seen this coming.

Petitclerc was recruited to the British job by Peter Eriksson, her long-time personal coach in Canada who now heads the performance unit at U.K. Athletics, a full-time position he took up in 2008.

Eriksson had previously lured Kelly Smith, a silver medallist for Canada in the men's marathon at the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens, to the U.K. to help oversee its Paralympic program.

And now they will be joined by Petitclerc, which should raise another red flag about how Canada goes about its business of raising future world class amateur athletes.

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