By Stefanie Barber (ISN)
ISN’s Stefanie Barber recently had a chance to sit down with Rick Hansen to discuss the Paralympics, athletes with disabilities and the ongoing 25th Anniversary Rick Hansen Relay which concludes in Vancouver on May 22. Read her exclusive and inspirational ISN interview here.
On March 21, 1985, Port Alberni born Rick Hansen set out on the Man in Motion Tour. His dream, to help break down barriers towards the potential of people with disabilities, create awareness for wheelchair sports and raise funds for spinal cord research. This is the story that most of us are aware of.
How many of you though, know of Rick Hansen the athlete?
Rick became involved with wheelchair sports following his injury, specifically basketball and wheelchair track/road racing.
Between 1979 and 1984, Rick went on to represent Canada at the 1980 and1984 Paralympics and the 1984 Olympics (exhibition event). Rick also won 19 international marathons and 9 gold medals at the 1982 Pan American Wheelchair Games (photo below left – Courtesy of Rick Hansen).
I first became aware of Rick at the young age of 9. At that time I didn’t know what the Paralympics were. The only exposure I had to sports for athletes with a disability were horseback riding and swimming.
It wasn’t until the age of 15 that I started to develop more knowledge of the Paralympics and because of Rick’s inspiration, I became involved with competitive wheelchair track and road racing, with the dream and hope of one day competing for Canada at the Paralympics.
Because of the difference Rick has made in my own life, I knew he was the perfect person to interview for my first article for ISN. Rick has not only touched the lives of people with disabilities, but his sharing of his message with the world has helped us all see the potentials in ourselves.
The legend of the Man in Motion tour has been the development of more accessible and inclusive communities, promising research for Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI), as well as teaching us all to be a difference maker in the lives of others.
1. Rick, you used the words “Choice, Hope, Purpose” in a recent TV interview. Can you elaborate on your message behind these words?
“Each person has the ability to make a choice, we all need hope and have a sense of purpose. These three words are essential ingredients to be a difference maker in your own way, in your community – one person can make a difference in the lives of others.”
2. Rick, each day you are touching lives, sharing words of dreams, hope and inspiration. Who is your difference maker?
“Inside each of us there’s the potential to do great things. And if we’re lucky, we meet people who see possibilities which we don’t see ourselves. Tim Frick, was my friend, my coach, and my Difference Maker. He helped focus my passion for sports into track…and his workouts were legendary. I remember my lungs literally bursting for air! But it was worth it, because Tim challenged me to be the best I could be, to find excellence through hard work and purpose. Tim Frick helped me become the “Man In Motion”.”
3. Bob Redford has said that one does not require the use of one’s legs to be an athlete. What words of wisdom or advice do you have for anyone who wants to become more physically active or is holding back from setting goals and achieving dreams?
“Positive reinforcement is key to reaching your goals and achieving your dreams. There were many moments during my original Man In Motion World Tour where I was so physically and emotionally exhausted that I wanted to quit, but thought of my good friend Terry Fox who never gave up and always stayed positive!”
4. Rick, what was your proudest moment as an athlete? Can you please share a special message from one athlete to the many athletes of Vancouver Island?
“I will never forget my experiences competing as an athlete at the Paralympic Games, where I earned a total of six medals in 1980 and 1984. Looking back when I was 15, recently injured from the car crash that left me paralyzed, I would have never imagined that I would have accomplished all that I have today – anything is possible if you believe in your dreams and have the courage to strive to reach them.”
5. How do you think Vancouver hosting the 2010 Paralympic Games has changed the attitude and awareness of the Paralympic Movement and the potential for not only athletes with disabilities, but people with disabilities?
“The 2010 Vancouver Paralympic Games showed that people with disabilities have no boundaries in this world. They can dream, achieve and excel. Those of us who were privileged to watch the drama unfold on the field of play were entertained, inspired, and encouraged to believe and hope that anything is possible in our lives too. Sport helped fulfill my life and made me realize I didn’t need to be cured to be whole as a human being. It also made me realize how important an impact you can have when you try to make a difference in the lives of others.”
6. Lastly, Rick can you please share with the ISN readers some history and information about the 25th Anniversary Relay?
“Twenty-five years ago, I wheeled around the world on my Man In Motion World Tour with the goal of raising awareness of the potential of people with disabilities. The 25th Anniversary Rick Hansen Relay began in Cape Spear, Newfoundland on August 24th, 2011 and will conclude on May 22, 2012 in Vancouver.”
“This time around, one man in motion will be represented and celebrated by many, as 7,000 Medal-Bearers who have made a difference in the lives of others will pass the singular Rick Hansen Medal – created by the Royal Canadian Mint- from one participant to the next.”
“This epic cross-Canada journey commemorates my original Man In Motion World Tour while celebrating a new generation of Difference Makers committed to a more healthy and inclusive world.”
The first of 7,000 medal bearers helps Rick Hansen kick-off the 25th Anniversary Rick Hansen Relay in Cape Spear, Newfoundland on August 24th of 2011 (Photo Courtesy of Rick Hansen)
The Relay team will be in Victoria, BC on May 1, 2012 – the last of the 5 celebration communities which are outside of the Relay route – where the relay itself is not operational but the Rick Hansen 25th Anniversary Relay team will be visiting a variety of community facilities.
There will be local events and celebrations to recognize local heroes in the community who are making a difference in the lives of others. The local municipalities will select the individuals to recognize, and the Rick Hansen Medal will be passed on to these difference makers as part of its cross-Canada journey.
Other events hosted by the Foundation include:
Interdependence 2012 (May 15-18, 2012), a global conference featuring leaders and influential people from around the world to accelerate progress towards a cure for paralysis after spinal cord injury;
Rick Hansen Foundation 25thAnniversary Gala (May 16, 2012);
and on May 22, 2012 the Relay will culminate on the streets of Vancouver and close with CTV-televised “Rick Hansen Celebrate 25.”
Thank you, Rick, from the readers of Island Sports Network, your fans of Vancouver Island and myself, for sharing your messages and time!