Canada and wheelchair rugby: tied through history

Europe's first champion a good sign for the sport

Canada taking on Great Britain in the preliminary round. The British would go on to win gold while the Canadians finished in fifth place Dave Holland/Canadian Paralympic Committee

Great Britain’s gold medal victory signaled another step in the growth of a Canadian sports creation around the world.

The British win over perennial champs Team USA marks the first championship for a European country in the event, with Japan rounding out the podium.

Great Britain’s Stuart Robinson says this wasn’t something that happened overnight.

“It’s still sinking in,” said Robinson to The Guardian. “The way that we’ve been together as a squad for the past four or five years has been building towards this.”

Invented in 1977 in Winnipeg, by Gerry Terwin, Duncan Campbell, Randy Dueck, and Paul LeJeune, wheelchair rugby was designed to allow wheelchair athletes with reduced arm and hand function to participate equally.

Originally called Murderball, it made its first appearance outside of Canada in 1979 at a demonstration at Southwestern State University, followed by the Canadian National Championship later that year.

By 1981, the first team in the United States was created and in 1982 the first international tournament involving teams from Canada and the US was held.

The growth of the sport continued strong as in 1989, the first multinational event featuring teams outside North America was held, with teams from Great Britain joining teams from Canada and the United States.

The Nineties was the decade saw the solidification of wheelchair rugby as an international sport.

It appeared as an exhibition event at the World Wheelchair games in 1990, which was fuel for rapid growth and a popularity increase. In 1993 it was officially recognized as a sport for athletes with a disability with 15 countries competing at that time.

The International Paralympic Committee officially recognized the sport in 1994, and the International Wheelchair Rugby Federation (IWRF) was established. The first World Championship went at Nottwil, Switzerland, in 1995, with eight teams.

The 2000 Sydney Paralympic Games saw the sport’s debut in the competition program as a full medal sport and it has been one ever since.

Since the 1995 World Championships, Canada has not finished lower than sixth in any competition, this includes a bronze in the 2008 Beijing Paralympics, silver medals in the 2019, Lima, Parapan American Games, 2004 Athens and 2012 London games, a win at the 2002 World Championship, and a gold medal at the 2015 Toronto Parapan Games.

With Canada taking home fifth place at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games, there is just another springboard that can be used to further grow the game back at home.

Wheelchair Rugby is a part of the Bridging the Gap national program, an initiative that encourages people with disabilities to get and stay active.

The sport also has multiple clubs across the country, all supported by their Podium Club program which helps attract new players, as well as providing competitive opportunities, providing coaching development and much more.

About this article

Posted: Aug 31 2021 9:49 am
Filed under: Parasports Rugby Sports Tokyo Paralympics