Photo credit : Ralph Samson

Named the 2020 Para-Cycling Female Athlete of the Year, Marie-Claude Molnar competes in the C4 category. She joined the Canadian Para-cycling team in 2009, after several weeks of rehabilitation following a collision with a vehicle while cycling. Despite the uncertainties related to Covid-19, she has participated in two Paralympic Games, several Championships and World Cups and is aiming for a third participation in Tokyo.


Marie-Claude, you have been cycling since you were 3 years old. What do you like most about your sport?

The bike is the ideal vehicle to see how far I can push the machine, what I can accomplish. At the same time, it allows me to be outside.


What was the last event you attended in person?

It’s been a really long time… in a few months, it’s going to be a year and a half since the last competition, which was at the end of January 2020. That was the Track Cycling World Cup in Milton, Ontario.


Were you happy with your ranking?

I was still happy with the performance. I say “the performance” because I would have liked a better ranking. But I am still proud, because it was my best performance ever. I really executed the plan that my coach at the time and I had established to a tee. It was a personal best; I did a 3 km in 3 minutes 59 seconds.


What helped you stay motivated and sane during the lockdown?

It’s important for me to have my mind on something. I have started a college certificate in Social Media Marketing with Bart College in Quebec City. I am also involved with Game Plan (a wellness program for athletes supported by the Institut national du sport du Québec), in a project called YouToi 2.0. It’s a group of athletes and we discuss our careers, life in general, things like that.

I am lucky enough to have the support of my mentor, Maxime Dufour-Lapointe (freestyle skier), whom I meet at least once a month. I also see my mental preparation counsellor regularly.

I am currently working as a Community manager with an organization called “Excellence sportive Montérégie”. It is a hub of the Institut national du sport (INS) in Montérégie. We support athletes by offering them physical preparation, mental preparation and nutrition services. I’m in charge of social media, so it allows me to put into practice what I learn. Working for other athletes, I really enjoy it!

Otherwise, like everyone else, I saw my family through a screen for a while. Now I can go for a walk with my mom; it is fun and better than nothing. I’m lucky to have my coach, too, who is always there when I need him. All of these things put together help me stay on track and motivated.

Photo credit : Daniel Paulhus

Have the health measures had an impact on your training?

The curfew didn’t really affect my training on the bike. It affected me more socially, for example, when we couldn’t do our fat bike rides in the evening.

The few months that INS was closed, I trained with what I had: my TRX, kettlebells, dumbbells, elastics. I did what I could under the circumstances (laughs). Certainly when INS reopened, we were able to pick up the pace, to get as much muscle gain as possible, because at some point I was starting to feel a plateau, which is normal. It was a good thing that INS reopened! Plus, with the measures that have been put in place, we feel really safe. Everyone is paying attention. In that respect, it’s impeccable.


At home, did you have a stationary bike to continue your training?

Yes, I can pedal inside. It’s not a stationary bike that I use, it’s my own bike that I put on a training base. I use virtual bike platforms, like Zwift or TrainerRoad. I have the tools to be able to continue training at home, which is an absolute blessing, because I am well aware that there are other sports, such as swimming, that cannot continue under these circumstances.


What is your goal when you return to competitions?

The selection process is still underway, so I would like to qualify for the Tokyo Paralympic Games. It’s certain that with the two World Cups in Europe cancelled, I don’t really know if there will be another opportunity to shuffle the cards. That doesn’t stop me from continuing. On a daily basis, I do what I can to be at my best and, no matter what happens, I won’t have any regrets, because I do everything in my control.

As I was saying to a friend of mine, all we can control is our reaction to what happens. I have that speech today, but an athlete at the beginning of their career would certainly have a different speech. I started competing in 2009, so I’ve been here for quite a while. I’ve competed in 2 Paralympics, 3 Parapanamerican Games, the last one in 2019, where I was a silver medalist, so I’m not in the same place in my career as the younger athletes. That’s why I can let go more easily.


What do you still want to accomplish on the sport scene in the next few years?

I want to deliver the maximum of the maximum, really surpass myself. I want to surpass all the records I’ve set so far. It may not happen, because I haven’t raced in a really long time, and when you haven’t raced in a long time, you’re going to be a little rusty. It’s something that’s completely normal, despite the fact that, in training, I’m still exceeding my personal best. In terms of my intention, that’s really what I want to achieve when it comes back.

The entire Défi sportif AlterGo team wishes Marie-Claude Molnar the best of luck for her 2021 season!

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