RRC instructor teams with Paralympics contender on bicycle modifications

Chantal Givens

It’s been a long road to Rio for Paralympic athlete Chantal Givens, who’ll make history this weekend as part of Canada’s very first paratriathlon team.

But the Winnipegger got a bit of an assist from Red River College instructor Leon Fainstein, who for the last year has been working with Givens on modifications to the bicycle she’ll use when competing in Brazil this Sunday morning.

A Mechanical Technology instructor at RRC, Fainstein was first approached by Olympic rower Jeff Powell, now the general manager of the Canadian Sport Centre Manitoba. (Qualico vice-president John Daniels, a cycling-world acquaintance and one of Givens’ primary sponsors, recommended Fainstein to her team.)

With support from Don McDonald (Dean of Transportation, Aviation and Manufacturing at RRC) and program chair Bill Noakes, Fainstein worked with Givens — who was born without her left hand — on adaptations that allowed her to better grip her bike’s handlebar.

Together, they went through about 15 different iterations before arriving at the current model, which gives Givens the ability to better climb and descend hills.

“For most of the last year and at her Paralympic qualifying races, she has been using models straight from our 3D printer,” says Fainstein, who previously modified a wheelchair for use in wheelchair basketball while a Machine Shop student at RRC in the late 1970s. “The one on Chantal’s new bike in Rio is full carbon fiber layered over a core from that same printer.”

Givens, 38, is a three-time Canadian Paratriathlon champion and has twice placed fourth at the World Championships. Her Paralympic dreams were nearly dashed last summer when she fell from her bike and fractured her shoulder blade just weeks before a major event.

This year marks the debut of the triathlon event at the Paralympic Games. Givens’ team competes at 10am (CT) this Sunday.

Photo credit: Canadian Sport Centre Manitoba