• By: Katie Hartai

Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame Profile: Rick Hansen

2015 marks the Year of Sport and the 60th anniversary of Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. In recognition of these important milestones, OLM will be featuring Honoured Members of Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in a weekly Profile piece.

Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame aims to share the stories and achievements of its Honoured Members to inspire Canadians in all aspects of life.

Rick Hansen, Athlete, Wheelchair Athletics

Rick Hansen’s response to tragedy makes him an inspiration to all Rick HansenCanadians.

Hansen grew up in Williams Lake, British Columbia. He was a natural athlete and passionate about all kinds of sports, especially volleyball and basketball.

In June 1973, Hansen and his friend Don Alder were returning home after a week-long fishing trip. Riding in the back of a pick-up truck, the two were thrown out of the vehicle when it went off the road. Although the crash left Don relatively unharmed, the incident forever changed Hansen’s life. He sustained a spinal cord injury and was paralyzed from the waist down, preventing him from ever walking again.

Hansen was not prepared to let his new physical restrictions limit what future possibilities stood before him.

Three years after the accident, Hansen enrolled at the University of British Columbia and was the first person with a physical disability to graduate with a degree in Physical Education. During his time there, he played for the Vancouver Cable Cars, a wheelchair basketball team, and led them to win six national championships between 1976 and 1982.

Hansen turned his focus to track between 1979 and 1984, winning 19 international wheelchair marathons, including the 1984 World Wheelchair Championships. He also won nine gold medals and set nine records at the 1982 Pan-American Wheelchair Games along with gold, silver and bronze medals at the 1980 and 1984 Paralympic Summer Games.

Hansen has participated in several championships from wheelchair basketball to tennis, but he is perhaps best known for his commitment to make a difference for those living with spinal cord injuries.

The Man in Motion tour began on March 21, 1985. After two years and one day, Hansen had wheeled an amazing 40,072km through 34 countries on four continents. His efforts raised a total of $26.1 million for spinal cord research, rehabilitation and wheelchair sport.

Hansen’s momentum didn’t fade after the tour’s end.

In 1988, he created The Rick Hansen Foundation. It is a charitable organization that has raised more than $245 million for a variety of programs and initiatives aimed at creating an inclusive community for people living with disabilities. He is also committed to mentoring young people about social responsibility and supporting environmental conservation and sustainability.

Hansen is a courageous Canadian whose accomplishments go far beyond athletics.

To learn more about Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, visit sportshall.ca.