Sunday, March 20, 2011

Your Story: Shelley Chaplin

You wouldn't think that a starter on the Australian wheelchair basketball national team would have much to do with wheelchair sports in BC. Well, you would be wrong. After falling in love with Vancouver during her internship for the 2010 World Wheelchair Rugby Championships, Shelley Chaplin has returned to the area to work for BC Wheelchair Basketball and train and compete in various local leagues. Recently, she was named to the All Star team at the Div 2 CWBL finals.

Shelley Chaplin

Six months ago, I had never heard of BCWSA. I came to BCWSA to complete my internship, and I was quite frankly amazed by the 2010WWRC event that the staff at BCWSA produced. Having been to a number of basketball world championships, I can safely say that this is the best wheelchair sports event I have even seen outside of the Paralympic Games and I am proud to say I was a part of it. BCWSA sets a high standard for wheelchair sports associations around the world.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Your Story: Arley McNeney

BC Wheelchair Sports is inviting all of our members to send us their wheelchair sports highlights from the past 40 years in whatever format they choose. Send us your highlights as a short paragraph, a photo, a video...anything that feels appropriate.

To give you an idea of some of the ways you can represent your wheelchair sport highlight, social media coordinator Arley McNeney (who played on the women's wheelchair basketball national team from 2001 - 2007, winning two World Championship golds and a Paralympic bronze) attempts to turn her wheelchair sports career into a music playlist....without using "Eye of the Tiger."

Arley McNeney

  1. "Sowing Seeds" - Jesus and Mary Chain: Because I didn't play sports when I was able-bodied, I had a lot of catching up to do when I started wheelchair basketball. I was lucky enough to have some great coaches early on who had the patience to help me sow the seeds of a love of sport despite the fact that I was really, really (really) bad.
  2. "Waiting for the Great Leap Forward:" - Billy Bragg: After several years of hard work and coaching, I made the "great leap forward" on to the national team in 2001 at age 18.
  3. "You're a Big Girl Now" - Bob Dylan: Seeing as how my main talent in basketball has always been my height, this has been my sports theme song for over a decade (despite the fact that it's kind of depressing).
  4. "Hello, Timebomb" - Matthew Good Band: "push and push till it hurts!"
  5. "Big in Japan" - Tom Waits: My first major event was in 2002 at the World Championships in Kitakyushu, Japan. Japanese fans gave me little toys and notes that said "You are my favorite because you are very big."
  6. "Clocks" - Coldplay: Not a huge fan of this song, but it was the anthem for the 2004 Paralympics and was played constantly in the athlete's village and so reminds me of the experience. (Some people might say that my Paralympic highlight should be represented by "Mykonos" by the Fleet Foxes, but I'm not sure if having to be rescued by wheelchair rugby players on a Greek island constitutes a highlight or a lowlight).
  7. "Instructions" - Veda Hille (the version from "Auditorium"): Some solid (if bizarre) sport and life advice from one of BC's best indie folk musicians.
  8. "Don't Stop Believing" - Journey: It's practically illegal to create a sports playlist without a little Journey. This reminds me of my varsity career in Illinois, since it was played during every chair skills session.
  9. "Bedlam" - Veda Hille: Something about this song reminds me of the feeling of competing.
  10. "Grounded" - Pavement: Because of some medical issues, my wheelchair basketball career has been on hiatus since 2007. This song not only captures the challenges of being "grounded," but it's also my favourite song to work out to.
  11. "Home for a Rest" - Spirit of the West: Back in Vancouver after 4 years in the American Midwest.
  12. "Crash Years" -- New Pornographers: My BCWSA career takes a new twist when I begin working for the 2010 World Wheelchair Rugby Championships. "There's no other show like it 'round here!"
  13. "Rainy Night In Soho" - The Pogues: A fitting end to any playlist/ sports career. I've been "loving you a long time," BC Wheelchair Sports.

40 Years. 40 Stories. 40 Days: It's Your Turn!

We've shared our top 40 wheelchair sports moments and now it's your turn. Not only can you vote for your favourite story in our poll, but we also want to hear about your own BC wheelchair sports highlights. We want to keep BCWSA's 40th birthday celebration rolling by giving you an opportunity to share your story. Tell us what stories we missed, what moments left an impression on you, and how wheelchair sports have impacted your life.

You can send us your wheelchair sports highlights in whatever form feels appropriate. It could be one photo or a photo montage, a short paragraph or a long story, a Top 10 list, a video, or even a music playlist. Your highlight could take place in BC or abroad. You could showcase one moment or discuss your entire wheelchair sports career. Whether you're an athlete, a coach, a volunteer, a builder or a fan, we want to hear from you. We'll post the stories as people send them to us.

Send your stories to .

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Vote for BCWSA's Top Story from the Past 40 Years!

Now it's your turn. Which of our 40 stories is your favourite? Which do you think is most important? Cast your vote for BCWSA's top story from the past 4o years. Since it's hard to pick just one, you can vote for more than one story. You can also leave your comments below and talk to other members about their picks.

We'll announce the winner on April 16th, 2011.

Cast your vote in the poll below:

Story 40: The Ultimate Story - Our Members

On February 5th ,we set out to celebrate our 40th birthday by promoting 40 of the top wheelchair sports stories of the past 40 years. In our quest to do so, we've reached into the BCWSA vaults to show you old photos and videos; relived Paralympic memories; interviewed families who have impacted our organization's success; celebrated milestones and victories; said goodbye to old friends; and even traveled to Prince George to show you a program that's creating tomorrow's Paralympians. We've loved hearing from you and seeing the great entries we received into our photo contest.

Forty stories, over 12,000 words, 44 contest entries, hundreds of photos and 16 videos later, we're done and all that's left to do is say thank you. So...thank you, BCWSA members! We owe our success over the past 40 years to the dedication and commitment of the thousands of athletes, coaches, volunteers, fans, staff, builders, friends, fans and family who make up the BC wheelchair sports community. We can't wait to see how your energy and passion will play out over the next 40 years.

To say thank you, we prepared a little photo/video montage. The music (appropriately enough) is "40 Day Dream" by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Story 39: The Future/ Let's Play

As "40 Years. 40 Stories. 40 Days" winds down, we look towards the future to see what initiatives will be making life better for athletes with disabilities during the next 40 years.

Across the province, new programs are sprouting up on a regular basis. Here's a brief look at a few of them:

Powell River

Thanks to organizer Lindsay Peake and coach Dylan Young, wheelchair basketball has come to Powell River and is going strong. Not only does the area now have an adult league, but they've also started a junior program. BC development coach Joe Higgins recently traveled to the area to put on a clinic and the Powell River Ravens are now sharing their knowledge by conducting demos, some of which use the Let's Play chairs. Their future goals: to travel to Vancouver to take part in a tournament or BCWSA event. For more information on their program, check out their website here.

You wouldn't think that an town as small as Comox would have a wheelchair basketball team...let alone a women's team...let alone a women's team comprised mostly of women over 50. But that's just what's happened thanks to some local enthusiasm and a few wheelchairs from the BC Wheelchair Basketball Society. Recently, this program was honoured by the BCWBS with the 2010 Outstanding Community Support award. For more information, check out their website here.

Vancouver Island
In addition to the wheelchair rugby program that already exists in Victoria, Nanaimo recently began their own program. This exciting new wheelchair rugby club is making an intra-island wheelchair rugby league possible and giving Island murderballers more chances to compete and train without having to take a ferry. For more information, please email

Wheelchair rugby continues to expand across the province and its most recent stop is in Squamish. Thanks to the efforts of Karen Tapp and Adam Frost, this program seems to be gaining new members each week. To attend one of their weekly drop-in practices, email

The Lower Mainland remains a hot spot for wheelchair sports in the province. For the first time this year, we launched a wheelchair tennis league with both an intermediate and advanced division. The WC Race Series is also providing local clinics, drop-in nights and competitive opportunities for wheelchair racers. In wheelchair basketball, the Tim Frick City League and events like the 2011 All-Comers Wheelchair Basketball Festival are giving newcomers a chance to develop their skills in a fun, supportive environment.

Yes, wheelchair sports are alive and well here in BC and new opportunities to get involved are opening up seemingly every day. Whether you've been out of the scene for a few years and are looking to come back or you've been recently injured and want to try for the first time, we can find a place for you. Drop us a line or visit

When we think of the future of wheelchair sports in BC, however, we can't help but be excited about the Let's Play program. This program, which is a joint initiative between the Province of BC, the Rick Hansen Foundation and the BC Wheelchair Basketball Association, is bringing 100 sports wheelchairs for children under 8 to communities around the province. We traveled to Prince George to see how the Let's Play program is making the area more accessible for everyone and filmed this video:

Monday, March 14, 2011

Story 38: Associate Sports

In addition to the three core sports (wheelchair rugby, wheelchair tennis and athletics), BCWSA also administers three associate sports: curling, floor hockey and target sports. Today we take a look at these three sports and the athletes, coaches and volunteers who take part in them. All three sports are always looking for new members, so if you'd like to try one out, please email for more info.

Target Sports

Target sports are included in the Paralympics and, over the years, BC has sent several athletes (notably Chris Trifonidis) to represent the province on the world stage. The BC Wheelchair Target Sports Association is always looking for beginning recreational players as well as elite competitive players. Both quadriplegics and paraplegics play, as well as athletes with other disabilities. When they're not competing, target sports athletes conduct sport demonstrations for community groups, schools, and rehabilitation centres and promote the safe use of rifles and handguns in shooting sports. No experience or equipment is necessary. Below, you can see a slideshow of BC's target sport members, including Chris, Doug Blessin and long-time volunteer Jack Ramsay.


Remember when Canada's curling rink made the whole country proud at the 2010 Vancouver Paralympics? Yes, those athletes were all from BC. Though it's a relatively new sport, wheelchair curling has taken off across the province and there are currently programs in the Lower Mainland/Fraser Valley, the Okanagan, Victoria and Prince George. Wheelchair curling is co-ed and can be played by quadriplegics, paraplegics and people with significant disability in the lower limbs.

Floor Hockey

Wheelchair ball hockey is played mostly on a recreational basis in BC, though tournaments featuring teams from across the USA and Canada have taken place in the past. The league started in 1991 when a group of newly injured guys at G.F. Strong began playing around with cut-down hockey sticks and a ball and soon took off. In 1998, a team went down to L.A. to play in a ball hockey tournament and came in second place. Today, thanks in large part to the efforts of athlete Hilary Brown, there are now enough athletes in the Lower Mainland to form two teams. Wheelchair ball hockey is especially popular with athletes from other sports, who use it as a form of cross training.

Here is a slideshow of our three associate sports:

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Story 37: Wheelchair Tennis

Though wheelchair tennis has always been popular in BC, it's experienced an even greater resurgence in the past year. Our province is already home to some of Canada's greatest wheelchair tennis athletes; in fact, three BC athletes (Sarah Hunter, Yuka Chokyu and Paul Johsnon) hold Canadian records for the longest consecutive championship titles and have represented Canada at several Paralympics.

Most recently, however, BCWSA and Bridging the Gap have been working to increase developmental opportunities for local athletes. Wheelchair tennis has been the focus of several "Have a Go" days and a new recreational league has begun across the Lower Mainland. (To see this league in action, check out our Developmental video here). In today's photo slideshow, we pay tribute to past champions while looking ahead to our future.

Profile: Paul Johnson

Victoria athlete Paul Johnson began wheelchair sports as a track athlete. After representing Canada at the 1988 Paralympics, however, he turned his attention to wheelchair tennis and began a record-breaking career. From 1991 to 2000, Johnson won the Canadian national singles championships nine times. His winning streak from 1991 - 1998 still stands as Canada's longest. He was also the doubles champion from 1993 - 2000. On the national stage, Paul represented Canada at three Paralympics and two World Team Cups. He was named BCWSA's Athlete of the Year in 2000.

Check out our wheelchair tennis slideshow below:

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Story 36: Wheelchair Basketball

It's no secret why wheelchair basketball has appeared in several "40 Years. 40 Stories. 40 Days" stories already. BC has long been a powerhouse in the sport and the province is home to championship coaches like Tim Frick , teams like the Vancouver Cable Cars, and more athletes than you can name. Though wheelchair basketball is now administered through the BC Wheelchair Basketball Society, our two organizations work in close partnership.

Today, we take a look back at wheelchair basketball across the past 40 years in BC. We also profile BC athlete Peter Colistro.

Profile: Peter Colistro

In addition to being a track star, Pete Colistro is a talented wheelchair basketball player who served on the Canadian national team for many years with the likes of Rick Hansen, Murray Brown, John Lundie and Chris Samis. He was also a starter on the Vancouver Cable Cars during their peak years. Off the court, Pete gave back to the sport as a founding director of the BC Wheelchair Basketball Society. After an absence from the wheelchair basketball community, Pete recently came out of retirement and, along with Joe Higgins, resurrected the Vancouver Cable Cars to play in the Division 2 CWBL - Open League. Last week, the Cable Cars finished second (behind Victoria) and Pete was named tournament MVP.

Here is a slideshow of wheelchair basketball in action:

Friday, March 11, 2011

Story 35: BCWSA and the Silver Screen

When BCWSA started in 1971, most people didn't know that wheelchair sports even existed unless they had a friend or family member who played. Those days, however, are long past us. In recent years, wheelchair sports have made their way into the mass media thanks to documentaries like "Murderball" and TV shows like "Friday Night Lights" and (most recently) "Fringe." Today, we profile several occasions where BCWSA has had its 15 minutes of fame . We even go behind-the-scenes at the taping of "Fringe," where several BC wheelchair rugby athletes (including Duncan Campbell and ref Kevin Bowie) appeared in an episode (Season 3, episode 15).


"Murderball" is perhaps the most famous wheelchair sports documentary. It was nominated for a 2006 Academy Award and launched wheelchair rugby into the spotlight. Since then, the sport has appeared in several other films and television shows, including "Jackass" and "Friday Night Lights." While most people in the wheelchair sports community are familiar with "Murderball" and know that it features BC athletes Garett Hickling and Ian Chan, few people know that many scenes were actually filmed at the Vancouver Invitational Wheelchair Rugby Tournament and feature several local athletes, fans and supporters in the background. You can see wheelchair rugby (and Ian and Garett) live at this year's Vancouver Invitational, which will take place from March 26 - 28.

Can't Stop, Won't Stop

This 2009 documentary produced by OMNI follows Canadian captain Ian Chan leading up to the 2010 World Wheelchair Rugby Championships. The documentary focuses on Ian Chan's work ethic -- the title comes from the mantra he repeats to himself during training -- and the role that his mentor Duncan Campbell played in the creation of this uniquely Canadian sport.


Tonight, the TV show "Fringe" will air an episode that features wheelchair rugby. Since "Fringe" is filmed in BC, local athletes, refs and coaches were invited to be part of the shoot. BCWSA was given permission to go behind the scenes -- we'll even be part of the official "Fringe" behind-the-scenes DVD -- and film the following video blog. We've got teasers for tonight's episode, interviews with the BCWSA members featured in the episode and even an interview with Alan Ruck (of "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" fame), who shares his thoughts about wheelchair rugby with social media coordinator Arley McNeney.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Story 34: Athletics

We've already heard how the WC Race Series and various developmental programs make it easier for today's wheelchair racers to excel. Even without these programs, however, BC has produced several talented para-athletics athletes in its 40+ years. In fact, the wheelchair racing program in BC gave rise to Canada's two most famous disabled athletes: Terry Fox and Rick Hansen.

Today, Paralympic wheelchair racers like Michelle Stilwell and Kelly Smith call BC home and there are many up-and-coming athletes training hard every day to make it on an international stage. Field events are also gaining in popularity thanks to the recent purchase of specialized equipment. And though BCWSA only sent one athlete to the recent IPC Athletics World Championships, developmental programs and initiatives like Bridging the Gap are ensuring that there will be more in the future.

Profile - Michelle Stilwell
Michelle "Mikey" Stilwell started her career as a wheelchair basketball player. She represented Canada at the 2000 Sydney Paralympics in wheelchair basketball, winning gold and becoming the first quadriplegic woman to do so. When she was forced to retire from wheelchair basketball for medical reasons, she made a move into wheelchair racing and her golden career continued. At the 2008 Beijing Paralympics, Mikey won gold and broke Paralympic records in both the 100 and 200m sprints. At the recent IPC World Championships in New Zealand, Mikey brought home three gold medals and one silver and broke three world championship records! Mikey lives in Nanoose Bay with her husband and her son Kai.

Here is a slideshow of wheelchair athletics in BC over the years:

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Story 33: Wheelchair Rugby

Today on "40 Years, 40 Stories, 40 Days," we begin a series of profiles on individual BCWSA member sports and the athletes, coaches and builders who have impacted that sport's development in BC. We're starting with wheelchair rugby.

Even though "murderball" was born in Manitoba, BC has been a powerhouse for much of its history. In fact, Team BC has won the Canadian national championships an incredible 16 times in 32 years. This winning record has no doubt been thanks to celebrated BC athletes like Garett Hickling and Ian Chan and coaches like Adam Frost and Marty Rush.

With new programs starting every year -- Squamish and Nanaimo are the most recent clubs to get on board -- there are more and more opportunities for today's wheelchair rugby players across the province.

Profile: Duncan Campbell

Though Duncan Campbell is from Manitoba, he moved to BC in the 1980s and has been a driving force in the wheelchair rugby community ever since. This makes sense, since he's one of the founders of murderball and is known as the "Quadfather." Through his work at GF Strong and Bridging the Gap, Duncan has introduced countless athletes to wheelchair rugby. You'd be hard-pressed to find a BC wheelchair rugby athlete who doesn't count Duncan as one of the reasons he or she either got involved in the sport or stayed involved. Duncan is also active in the International Wheelchair Rugby Federation, ensuring that the sport remains on the right track as it develops around the world.

Below, we've created a slideshow of some of the best wheelchair rugby shots from around BC. You can also see some more great wheelchair rugby images in our story on the 2010 World Wheelchair Rugby Championships:

Story 32: Athlete Development

Paralympians are made, not born. One of our goals here at BCWSA is to give every athlete a chance to develop to his or her full potential, whether that athlete wants to win a gold medal or just keep fit.

In the past, developing athletes sometimes had a tough time breaking in to a sport. Brand new playes were often thrown into a practice with Paralympians to either sink or swim. In some regions, players couldn't even find a team to play on and didn't have access to adequate equipment or coaching.

Today, however, we're working to change that. Through some exciting new programs, we're giving developing athletes a chance to learn their sport alongside other athletes of a similar level of experience. Whether you're someone with a newly acquired spinal cord injury trying wheelchair rugby for the first time or a retired wheelchair tennis athlete from one of the regions looking to get back into the game, we want to give you a positive sport experience.

The following video takes a look at just some of the new developmental programs that exist around the province.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Vote in Our "Best of BCWSA" Photo Contest: A Facebook Primer

There's a little over a week left in the "Best of BCWSA" Photo Contest and the contestants need your help to win. Many of the 35 great entries are neck-in-neck to win one of three great prize packages consisting of cash and BCWSA merchandise. Remember: it's not too late to submit an entry of your own. Just email your favourite wheelchair sports photo to

Since the photo competition is being run through our Facebook page, we've prepared a step-by-step guide to help you vote in the contest. If you have any other questions, just email

Step 1: Log In To Your Facebook Account

Go to and log in with your email account and password. If you don't have a Facebook account, there's an easy sign-up option on the page.

Step 2: Go to Our Facebook Page

To go to our Facebook page, you can either visit or go to the top of the page on your Facebook account and begin to type in "BC Wheelchair Sports" in the white rectangle. The page should appear in the drop-down menu below like so:

Click on "BC Wheelchair Sports Association (BCWSA)" and you should be taken to our page.

Step 3: "Like" Us.

In order to vote, you must first become a fan of our page. To do so, go to the top of our page and click on the "like" button.

Step 4: Go to the Contest Photo Album

There are two ways to access the Contest Photo Album. You can either go to this link or else go to our page and click on "Photos" like so:

This should pull up the following page:

Click on the album that says "Best of BCWSA Photo Contest Entries."

Step 5: Vote!

When you visit the contest album, you'll see this window with all the entries:

To begin voting, just click on one of the photos. The slideshow will appear like this:

To vote, click on "like." You can also leave a comment by clicking on "comment." The contestant will get one point for each "like" and one for each unique comment. To see more photos, just click the arrows on either side of the photo. You can vote for as many photos as you'd like.

And that's it!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Story 31: In Memoriam

In the 40 years since BCWSA was founded, several members have passed away. Today, we pay tribute both to the members we have lost and those who continue to carry on their legacy. The following photo montage represents a small sample of the many people who have left their mark on the B.C. wheelchair sports community while they were with us.

We invite you to share your memories of these athletes, builders, coaches and officials below.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Story 30: Women in Sport

Since the beginning, women have been active participants in wheelchair sports. In fact, some of BC's most celebrated Paralympians have been women: Marni Abbott-Peter, Diane Rakiecki, Yuka Chokyu, Michelle Stilwell....the list goes on and on. Today's junior female athletes have a great many role models to choose from.

Unlike able-bodied sports, female wheelchair athletes routinely train and compete alongside men and this has pushed them to become stronger, faster and better athletes. Some wheelchair basketball leagues are co-ed and wheelchair rugby is a co-ed sport. As the Paralympic movement grows, however, sport opportunities for women with disabilities are increasing. This year, for example, Canada will host the first-ever women's world wheelchair basketball championships for women under 25.

As we've seen, women have also played a prominent role on the administrative side of BC Wheelchair Sports. Kathy Newman and Laurel Crosby have worked passionately in the wheelchair sports community for 30 years. Gail Hamamoto has also made a significant contribution to the wheelchair sports community both with her work at BCWSA and with her positions with the International Wheelchair Rugby Federation, the Canadian Paralympic Committee and the Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association. Today, BCWSA has four female staff members (Kathy Newman, Gail Hamamoto, Holly Tawse and Arley McNeney) and only one lone man (Kevin Bowie).

Whether they're volunteering, building, competing or leading, women have played a significant role in BCWSA's history. Here is a slideshow of BCWSA women in sport.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Story 29: Activism/Awareness

It's no secret that wheelchair sports enrich the lives of those who play them. It's also no secret that when people are exposed to wheelchair sports, they quickly abandon any stereotypes they might hold about people with disabilities. Our next story, however, is about people within the wheelchair sports community who have gone above and beyond to raise awareness about wheelchair sports and reduce barriers for people with disabilities. Some used wheelchair sports as a platform to build awareness. Others built a political career trying to gain equality for all types of people. But all of the people profiled today are members of the wheelchair sports community that we're proud to claim as our own.

Rick Hansen

A look back at the top 40 wheelchair sports stories in BC history wouldn't be complete without Rick Hansen. Before Rick was a Man in Motion, he was a celebrated wheelchair basketball and track athlete. He won 19 wheelchair marathons, 6 Paralympic medals and 6 national wheelchair basketball championships with the Vancouver Cablecars. In 1985, Rick set out to wheel around the world and took along his coach and mentor, Tim Frick. By the time the tour ended in 1987, he'd raised $26 million for spinal cord research. Today, the Rick Hansen Institute has raised over $200 million and Rick continues to be a strong supporter of the wheelchair sports community in BC. Rick is now celebrating the 25th anniversary of his Man in Motion tour by repeating the journey.

Terry Fox

After he lost his leg to cancer at age 18, Terry Fox was introduced to wheelchair sports by Rick Hansen. Like Rick, Terry was also trained by Tim Frick and gained the physical stamina necessary for his Marathon of Hope by participating in wheelchair sports. On April 12th, 1980, Terry Fox's Marathon of Hope started in St. John's, Newfoundland. While the event did not originally garner much media attention, momentum picked up and soon Terry Fox was a household name. Sadly, after 143 days and over 5,000 kilometers, Terry was forced to stop after the cancer spread to his lungs. He passed away on June 28, 1981 at age 22.

Sam Sullivan

Before he was the mayor of Vancouver, Sam Sullivan was a board member for BC Wheelchair Sports. He also played wheelchair rugby and dabbled in other wheelchair sports. In addition to his work with BC Wheelchair Sports, he also founded six non-profits designed to help people with disabilities. In 1993, Sam became a Vancouver city councillor and served for 15 years with the Non-Partisan Alliance (NPA). In 2005, he was elected to be mayor of Vancouver, where he used his position to advocate on behalf of people with disabilities as well as campaign for improved conditions for people with drug addictions. Today, Sam is interested in reducing the ecological impact of the city of Vancouver in order to make life better for Vancouver's citizens.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Story 28: Extinct Wheelchair Sports

Over the past 28 days, we've seen how wheelchair technology has become more advanced, new sports have been created, and rule changes have made existing sports more exciting and competitive. Athletes no longer have to compete in at least 5 events if they want to go to an international games and federal carding money and professional leagues now allow athletes to train full time.

But the shift from wheelchair sports being seen as "recreational opportunities for the disabled" to being seen as elite sports did not benefit every sport. Today, we take a look back at a few wheelchair sports that have gone the way of the dinosaur.

Square Dancing

During the '60s and '70s, wheelchair square dancing was alive and well in BC. While dancers did not perform the traditional do-si-do or swing moves, they participated in several other "promenade-style" dances. Though a quick Google search turns up the fact that groups such as the "Swingin' Spokes" still perform wheelchair square dancing "at demonstrations in malls and parks," square dancing is no longer a mainstream wheelchair sport.


This wheelchair sport was a combination of archery and darts and was considered appropriate for people in wheelchairs since the darts were lighter and participants could stand closer to the target. But as adaptive equipment made archery more accessible, darchery fell by the wayside. It was cut from the Paralympics in 1980.


Wheelchair slalom was designed to be the wheelchair sports equivalent of hurdles. It mimicked skills that a person in a wheelchair would need in daily life, such as going up hills or curbs. Participants pushed day chairs through obstacle courses and did "wheelies" on top of certain ramps. Though it was never a Paralympic event, slalom was hugely popular. Many athletes who competed in slalom, such as Pat Harris, went on to become Paralympians in other sports. When sports like wheelchair basketball, track and tennis became more competitive, the appeal of slalom began to fade. The sport has nearly completely died out and most wheelchair athletes today do not even know it existed.

Pat Harris competes in slalom.

Wheelchair Volleyball

Can you spot the Paralympians in this photo? Hint: one of them wheeled around the world.

For a brief moment, wheelchair volleyball looked as if it would develop into a Paralympic sport. Some of BC's top athletes competed and the sport was championed by coach Tim Frick, who comes from an able-bodied volleyball background. Perhaps because it was fairly difficult and had a steep learning curve, or perhaps because athletes were more interest in faster-paced sports like wheelchair basketball, wheelchair volleyball never caught on. Instead, sitting volleyball became a Paralympic sport.


Snooker was once a popular wheelchair sport and was even included in the Paralympics. Unfortunately, snooker lost its Paralympic standing in 1988 and since then it has been relegated to a form of "cross-training" practiced in bars across the province.

Table Tennis

Table tennis actually isn't an extinct sport -- it's still played at the Paralympics -- but its popularity has decreased significantly in BC and is no longer administered by BC Wheelchair Sports. During the '60s and '70s, however, table tennis was one of the most popular wheelchair sports around and several Paralympians participated in it.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Story 27: The WC Race Series

The BC Road Racing Series was founded in 1995 as a developmental wheelchair racing program. Its creators, James Hustvedt and Steve Milum, wanted to provide competitive opportunities for wheelchair racers that would also have a fun, social component. In 2000, the program became a non-profit society and the name was changed to the WC Race Series Society as it expanded into Western Canada. Track was also added.

After the WC Race Series became a society, the program was able to access gaming money to give grants to athletes so that they can travel to different events. Racers amass points based on how many competitions they attend and are eligible for prizes at the end of the year. The Series offers opportunities for both competitive and developmental athletes. It also hosts clinics and developmental days to help current participants hone their skills and encourage newcomers to take part.

Since its inception, the WC Race Series' membership has grown by 300%. The program helps to ensure that Paralympians like Michelle Stilwell have access to quality competitive opportunities and that up-and-comers have a chance to gain valuable sport experience in a fun environment. Today, BC Wheelchair Sports celebrates the WC Race Series and its creators, James Hustvedt and Steve Milum.

James Hustvedt, founder of the WC Race Series
James gives an athlete feedback at a clinic.

Video of Steve Milum courtesy of the BC Paraplegic Association

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Story 26: Tim Frick

Both on and off the wheelchair basketball court, Tim Frick is one of BC's most respected coaches. Not only did he coach the Canadian women's wheelchair basketball national team to 3 Paralympic and 4 world championship gold medals over the course of his 18-year tenure, but he has also received the Order of BC and was a Faculty Emeritus in Douglas College's Sport Science program.

Throughout his 30+ year career, Tim Frick has been involved in some of BC wheelchair sports' biggest moments. He coached Rick Hansen leading up to the Man in Motion Tour and traveled with him for part of the tour. He has also been to six Paralympics and the Canadian women's wheelchair basketball team boasts one of Canada's longest-running winning streaks.

Though he's best known for his coaching style, Tim has also impacted wheelchair sports development worldwide by pioneering several sport science initiatives. He has worked with legions of sport psychologists, personal trainers and researchers and has experimented with everything from colour theory to microstretching to cooling vests in an effort to give his athletes an edge over the competition. Many other wheelchair sports have taken a lesson from Tim and adopted these sport science principles in their own programs.

Though Tim is now retired and lives on Pender Island with his partner Gerry, he remains a valuable part of the BC wheelchair sports community.

Here is a slideshow of Tim in action:

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Story 25: Laurel Crosby

It's hard to find someone more dedicated to wheelchair sports than Laurel Crosby. Since 1979, she has worn countless hats in the wheelchair sports world: team leader, committee chair, president of the Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association and the Canadian Paralympic Committee, board member, liaison, torchbearer, educational consultant...the list goes on. In fact, when Laurel Crosby decided to add motherhood to her long list of responsibilities, she even timed the birth of her children so that they wouldn't conflict with her work with wheelchair sports.

"Laurel Crosby has never wavered in her commitment to wheelchair sports," said Kathy Newman, Executive Director of BC Wheelchair Sports. "She's as enthusiastic now as she was the first day she started."

Laurel became involved in wheelchair sports through her connection with G.F. Stronge and over the past 32 years has been active in nearly every aspect of the community. She was instrumental in the creation of a national junior wheelchair sports camp, which paved the way for more opportunities for junior athletes. As an elementary school principal, she is in a unique position to raise awareness about wheelchair sports and has helped the Canadian Paralympic Committee, Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Games and the 2010 World Wheelchair Rugby Championships create schools programs that will actually be used by teachers. Laurel was also the team leader for the 1988 Paralympics in Seoul and the 1992 Paralympics in Barcelona and her positions on the Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association and Canadian Paralympic Committee boards have helped her influence policy on a national scale.

"It's through leaders like Laurel that BC has been a leader both nationally and internationally in wheelchair sports," said Kathy. "What she's done is really amazing."

Recently, Laurel was instrumental in the success of the 2010 World Wheelchair Rugby Championships. She devoted 4 years to the event as the Chair of the 2010 World Wheelchair Rugby Championships society and spearheaded the creation of a teacher's resource package and schools program. She even managed the event's successful silent auction.

Over the years, Laurel has also made her family a part of the wheelchair sports family. Her husband John has worked behind the scenes as a volunteer for many years and her two sons were active in wheelchair basketball for many years.

Thanks, Laurel, for your dedication to wheelchair sports. Here are some photos of Laurel in action:

Laurel receives one of many awards for service.

Laurel's husband John holds one of their sons at a wheelchair sports event.

Laurel opens the 2010 World Wheelchair Rugby Championships

Laurel closes the 2010 World Wheelchair Rugby championships

Monday, February 28, 2011

Story 24: The Wheelchair Loan Program

Gail Hamamoto poses with a participant who is using a loaner chair to try tennis.

In the mid-nineties, BCWSA Director of Sport Gail Hamamoto took some track athletes to Alberta for a clinic. Many of the BC athletes she brought were pushing "outdated clunkers" and Gail was impressed when the Alberta staff brought out several brand new chairs thanks to their wheelchair loan program.

"I knew that we had to get a similar program going in BC," recalled Gail. "So I went home and told Kathy Newman about it and we began applying for grants. The CKNW Orphans' Fund was our biggest supporter and slowly other organizations came on board and we just kept amassing chairs."

Today, BC Wheelchair Sports has 75 chairs to loan out to athletes. BC Wheelchair Basketball has a further 130 chairs. Thanks to this program, athletes in wheelchair tennis, athletics, rugby, basketball and floor hockey no longer have to worry about the financial burden of purchasing a chair. Considering that a sports chair costs at least $3000 -- and many cost significantly more -- the wheelchair loan program eliminates one of the biggest barriers to participation that new athletes face.

"It's enabled hundreds of new people to get involved," said Gail. "It's also allowed athletes to try out chairs to understand what set-up works for them before they invest in buying one. We understand, however, that many athletes will never have the financial means to purchase their own chair, so they can use our chairs for as long as they're playing."

Want more info on the wheelchair loan program? Click here.

Story 23: Bridging the Gap

In 1999, BC Wheelchair Sports identified a need to support athletes who had been introduced to wheelchair sports while in rehab but needed an extra push to fully become involved in a sport. The Bridging the Gap program, originally headed by Sian Blythe, was born. In the past 10 years, what started as a provincial initiative has now gone Canada-wide. Bridging the Gap now introduces hundreds of athletes across Canada to wheelchair basketball, wheelchair tennis and wheelchair rugby.

The goal of Bridging the Gap is to eliminate the gap between people's introduction to wheelchair sports and their continued involvement in physical activities. Bridging the Gap hosts sport-specific Have a Go days where participants can try certain sports in a fun, supportive atmosphere. Current wheelchair athletes volunteer their time to demonstrate sports and answer questions that participants may have. Developmental programs are in place so that interested athletes can continue to participate. Bridging the Gap also offers human resources support and financial support for development programs. Junior programs, peer mentorship and leadership training are also available.

Here is a slideshow of some Bridging the Gap events in BC:

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Story 22: The Higgins Family

Our last family profile in Family Week of the "40 Years. 40 Sports. 40 Days" campaign is on the Higgins Family. Those of you active in wheelchair basketball will likely recognize Joe and Louise Higgins and their daughters Erin, Christine and Paula, but did you know that Joe and Louise actually met while competing at swimming in the 1988 Seoul Paralympics? This sport-loving family also skis, golfs and bike rides together. Today, we talk to Louise Higgins about how involvement in wheelchair sports impacted her family.

1. How did you get involved in wheelchair sports?

Our family began our involvement through Joe. He has been involved with wheelchair basketball since he was young. I met Joe on the plane on the way to Seoul in 1988 where we both competed at the Paralympics in swimming. Since then, our family has skied together, played wheelchair basketball together (all 5 of us!) and biked around our neighbourhood together. Joe and I play golf as much as we can in the spring and summer.

2. Why did you decide to get involved in wheelchair sports to the extent that you did?

We didn't really decide to be involved exactly. It just happened prompted by our desire to pursue sports activities as a family and maintained by sheer enjoyment.

3. Describe the ways in which you've been involved in wheelchair sports.

I started with swimming (not really wheelchair swimming, though!) and skiing in the 1980s. I used to ride my bike on campus (to get to class on time!) and now I share that with the kids. Golf is something Joe and I started a few years ago to move us to our retirement plan!

When Joe and I got married, he was heavily involved in coaching wheelchair basketball. In the early days when Erin was a baby, we had lots of athletes coming over to train with Joe on the rollers and to benefit from some one-on-one coaching. Exposure for Erin started early!

Joe stayed home with the other two kids after his coaching role changed. As they grew up, he continued to be involved in basketball, but we also took up skiing more seriously. All three of the girls started skiing before age 5. We spent a lot of time up at Big White and Joe developed his abilities with the sit ski. Joe never goes half measures with any of his interests and soon we were teaching up at Whistler with their adaptive ski program!

In 2004, Joe was approached to fill in as coach with the Calgary Rollers during a tournament in Vancouver. By this time, I had been playing a bit of basketball in the City League for fun. I was asked to play in the tournament so that they could make points. After one day, I was exhausted as I have never been before or since. I guess I did okay because both Joe and I had our contracts extended with the Rollers for the rest of the season and into the next season!

4. How has being involved in wheelchair sports impacted your family?

As mentioned, we continue to enjoy many ski vacations as a family and all three of the girls are good skiers now. This has contributed greatly to family cohesion. Because wheelchair basketball offers opportunities for able-bodied people, this has allowed our daughters to experience sport with their father. They have played regularly in the junior tournament in Richmond. Erin in particular has discovered her love of the sport and went to Halifax for the Canada Winter Games. She has found her inner agro personality despite being a generally gentle-spirited person. In a more general way, our involvement in wheelchair sports has promoted in our daughters a sense of tolerance and understanding of diversity in others.

5. How has the wheelchair sports community in BC changed since you first got involved?

I think there is more awareness of wheelchair sports in the able-bodied community and a perception that it is foremost a sport and not adaptive fitness for "the handicapped."

6. What is your wheelchair sports highlight from the past 40 years?

Playing with Erin and Joe on the Vintage Cable Cars team that also includes Erin's godfather Peter Colistro and the Lundie team. It is a real pleasure to share the sport with two generations of athletes!

7. How does it make you feel to watch your kids competing in wheelchair sports?

I have been really proud of Erin in her involvement in the sport. With success comes her desire for further involvement.

For those of you who missed it the first time around, here's Joe and Erin talking about their experience at the 2011 Canada Winter Games.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Story 21: The Gardner Family

Just as wheelchair sports would not exist in Prince George without the Harris family, Victoria owes a similar debt to the Gardner family. For over 20 years, the Gardner family, (Lynn, Ron and their children Kevin and Karen), worked to ensure that athletes from Vancouver Island were able to compete at the same level as those on the mainland. Whether serving on a board of directors or just making sure that a local athlete got a hot meal or a ride to practice, the Gardner family made the Victoria wheelchair sports community better.

Lynn Gardner began volunteering in the late 1970s when her son Kevin became involved in wheelchair sports at age 9. She served as an assistant manager or manager at several competitions, including 10 BC Games, and even took a team from Victoria to a competition in Morioka, Japan. Lynn was also an executive member of the Victoria Wheelchair Sports Association for 20 years and a board member of the BC Wheelchair Sports Association for several years.

Her son Kevin continued her volunteering legacy. Not only did he compete at a high level in wheelchair basketball and racing -- including participating in the 1988 Paralympics in Seoul in the 500m and 10000m -- but he has also served as the co-commissioner of the BC Wheelchair Basketball League, the chairperson of the Victoria Wheelchair Sports Association, and a member of the Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association's Athletics Committee. Kevin was also the long-time player-coach of Victoria's wheelchair basketball team and coached several teams at BC Games.

We interviewed both Kevin and Lynn to find out how wheelchair sports impacted their family:

1. How and when did you get involved in wheelchair sports?

Lynn: We got involved with wheelchair sports when Kevin was 9 after being introduced to it by Linda Hunt, who was also a Sidney resident.

Kevin: My first competition was (I think) swimming in the 1977 BC Games for the Physically Disabled. I was starting to get involved with some wheelchair sports in Victoria by that time, although for quite a few years my favourite sport was playing road hockey with my friends in the neighbourhood.

2. Why did you decide to get involved in wheelchair sports to the extent that you did?

Lynn: Kevin was interested, so we all followed along as a family doing whatever we needed to do to help. As the years went by, I got more involved with our Victoria group and then with BC Wheelchair Sports. Our first trip as a family was to Spokane with other Victoria athletes and it just continued from there. We put many miles on our vehicles over the years to make sure that Kevin and others got to all our local activities.

Kevin: I kept playing sports just because I kept having fun trying new sports, traveling and meeting people. Competing at multi-sport events like the BC Games exposed me to basketball, tennis and racing and I competed in all of these for quite a few years. After the basketball nationals in 1987 I decided to focus on racing to try to get to the 1988 Paralympics.

3. How has being involved in wheelchair sports impacted your family?

Lynn: All our family was involved in many activities, but many were just Kevin and I. Wheelchair sports becomes like a big family once you are involved no matter where you are from. It really was a big part of my life for many years.

Kevin: My family spent a great deal of time around competitions, even camping near where the BC Games were being held in the summer. Until I was old enough to drive, my mom was in the car a lot driving me to wherever sports were being played. My mom's involvement lead to her own volunteering career as a team manager/ official. All of us have met great people and made a lot of friends through wheelchair sports.

4. How has the wheelchair sports community changed since you've been involved?

Lynn: Wheelchair sports has grown so much since I first started. It has expanded to include so many sports and opportunities for so many people. There is no doubt that this a result of the leadership of our Executive Director Kathy Newman and the staff and board members she has put together over the years. Thank you Kathy, staff and board for all the years of dedication to the athletes, which is what BCWSA is all about.

Kevin: There is more of everything: more opportunities in sports in more parts of the province and much better awareness of what's available. When I got involved, people were just beginning to play tennis and racquetball and no one was skiing or playing sledge hockey. Most people had never seen a wheelchair sport unless they knew someone who was involved or the demo team had come to their school.

5. What is your wheelchair sport highlight from the past 40 years?

Lynn: It is hard for me to pick one highlight, since every competition has its great memories. For me personally, the race that was most exciting involved Kevin at the track trials in Edmonton where he, Paul Clark and Dan Wesley qualified for the Olympic trials in Belgium in 1987. As a family, our involvement with Richard and Marni's family has been a highlight for us. It was a privilege for us to be included in several honourings for them in Duncan. The people I met through all the years of involvement are really what make being involved with BCWSA such a great memory.

Kevin: Qualifying for the trials (held in Brussels) for the 1988 Seoul Olympic wheelchair 1500m demonstration event. To get to the trials, I had to finish in the top four in a qualifying race held at the 1988 Canadian nationals in Edmonton. Over the last 200 meters of that race I went from last place to fourth, passing everyone except Andre Viger, Dan Wesley and Paul Clark.

Thank you to the Gardners for their years of service to the BC wheelchair sports community. Below is a photo slideshow of the Gardners in action:

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Story 20: The Harris Family

Today, we profile the Harris family. Pat Harris is a former Paralympian who has competed in both track and basketball. When he and his wife Nancy moved to Prince George in 1980, they realized that there were no wheelchair sports opportunities in the area. Today, Pat, Nancy and their son Avril are working harder than ever to ensure that people with disabilities have access to quality sports and recreational opportunities in Prince George, including the exciting new Let's Play program. Want to know more about the Let's Play program? We'll be doing a video blog on it later in the 40 Days initiative, so you'll just have to stick around to find out.

Our social media coordinator traveled to Prince George to interview Pat, Nancy and Avril and find out how wheelchair sports have impacted their family:

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Story 19: The Hirschfield Family

Bobby fixes Trevor's chair.

Hustling to change a wheel.

Trevor competes for Team Canada

Today, we profile the efforts of the Hirschfield family and their work in the wheelchair rugby community both within BC and abroad.

Trevor Hirschfield is considered one of the best low-point wheelchair rugby players in the world. He was named Best 1.0 at the 2010 World Wheelchair Rugby Championships and has won many other Tournament All Star awards at national and international events. When Trevor's on the court competing for Team Canada, he doesn't have to look far to find his family. His father Bobby is also involved heavily with the Canadian national team, most recently as an equipment manager at the 2010 World Wheelchair Rugby Championships. The entire Hirschfield clan is usually not far behind. They're known to be ardent wheelchair rugby fans and even traveled to the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing to witness Trevor win a bronze medal.

Within BC, Trevor and his family have also been instrumental in developing wheelchair rugby on Vancouver Island. As one of the few national team athletes who lives in BC full-time, he mentors developing athletes and participates in demos and Have a Go days. Trevor's public speaking has also introduced British Columbians to wheelchair rugby.

We sat down to talk to Trevor about the impact his family has had on his career:

Q: Why did you decide to get involved in wheelchair rugby to the extent that you did?

A: My first attempt at rugby was in 2001 at a Have A Go day in Victoria. Duncan Campbell made sure that I wasn't going to miss it with all the constant reminders. After trying rugby for the first time I knew that it would be something that I would be interested in pursuing to the next level. I was really drawn to the physical aspect of the sport. It's not everyday you get to see two wheelchairs crash into each other at full speed. Being an ex-hockey player the physical part of the game felt natural.

Q: How has being involved in wheelchair rugby impacted your family?

Rugby has been great for my family. It gave me goals and something to work towards and my family has supported me every step of the way. Rugby helped my to move on with my life after my injury which has been extremely positive for both me and my family.

Q: What is your wheelchair rugby highlight so far?

My favourite rugby moment was getting to play on the world stage in front of my family in Beijing. I loved that I was able to share that moment with them.