New Wheels Changing Sports

Published Tuesday, May 24, 2005

It is through the encouragement and support of others that people discover their true abilities. Each June the Rick Hansen Wheels in Motion Event raises money and awareness about all of life’s possibility when living with a spinal cord injury.

Half of the money raised is returned to the community, which held the event, to support programs, equipment, or people that demonstrate the opportunities and abilities of life in a wheelchair. Wheelchair basketball is such a program.

Murray Brown, a local resident, is well aware of the possibilities and opportunities that arise from playing wheelchair basketball. Murray was an athletic teenager when an accident left him a paraplegic. Six months after the accident, while at GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre in Vancouver, Rick Hansen recruited Murray to try out for the wheelchair basketball team. As a nineteen-year-old who loved sports while able-bodied, the opportunity to try a sport while in a wheelchair peaked his interest.

Murray went to his first practice expecting to be a natural because of his previous athletic experiences. He soon realized he had a lot of hard work and practicing ahead of him. After his first practice he knew it was his game. “I fell in love with it right then”, he said.

It was 1977 when Murray began practicing wheelchair basketball. By 1978, he was on the national team. Murray traveled to Holland in 1980 to participate in his first Paralympics. He subsequently competed and traveled to England, Korea, and Spain for three more Paralympics. He and his team traveled the world and were continually rated among the top five teams in the world. Murray was the BC Wheelchair Sports Association 1986 Athlete of the Year. In 1997, he was inducted into the Canadian Wheelchair Basketball Association Hall of Fame. Murray continues to love the sport of wheelchair basketball and currently plays in a division two league in New Westminster.

He is impressed by the advancements in equipment. Murray remembers the players using their “everyday chairs” and that “the old chairs would collapse if you sneezed”. The new chairs are lighter, faster, and easier to use. A common problem in wheelchair basketball was that players would tip over backwards. The chairs now come with anti-tip casters on the back of the chair to prevent this problem. It was from tipping over backwards that Murray continually injured his elbows, resulting in surgery and his eventual retirement. Having the anti-tip castors really saves the player from additional abuse to their bodies.

The wheels on the new chairs are cambered (angled outwards) to help with speed and ease of use. The new chairs are expensive and funding is necessary so that players are able to continue to get the equipment they need to play their top game.

Events such as Wheels in Motion help people live lives that continually challenge themselves and the stereotypes of what life for a person in a wheelchair is like. When Murray was a newly paralyzed teen, he never guessed where his athletic abilities would soon take him. Murray was able to travel the world, meet amazing people from different countries, and play a game that he loves to this day.

Your participation in the Wheels in Motion Event will help to support programs or people like Murray, who showcase the abilities of those in wheelchairs.

For more information about the wheel, walk, or run course on June 12 at that Hammond Community Centre call Randall Didiuk 645- 5989