Gerein remains an inspiration after death

October 25, 2011

Disponible en anglais seulement
By Greg Harder, The Leader-Post October 21, 2011

Nearly two years after his passing, Clayton Gerein's list of accomplishments continues to grow.

The Pilot Butte product is among five new entries into the Canadian Paralympic Hall of Fame, which is holding its induction ceremony tonight in Ottawa. Since the year 2000, the Canadian Paralympic Hall of Fame has been recognizing those who made significant contributions to the growth and development of the Paralympic Movement.

Gerein certainly fits the bill. Regarded as one of the finest wheelchair athletes ever produced by Canada, he competed in seven Paralympic Games, winning 15 medals (seven gold) in athletics from 1984 to 2008.

A three-time Saskatchewan athlete of the year (1987, 1996 and 2001), Gerein was inducted into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame this past summer. He died of cancer on Jan. 22, 2010 at age 46.

"It's obviously a huge honour for him and for my family," said Gerein's daughter Zoe, 16, who's travelling to Ottawa today along with her sister Jasmine, 20, to accept the honour on her father's behalf. "I'm just really excited. I feel really, really lucky to be accepting it. I know how big of a deal it is. It's definitely deserved."

Gerein was 18 when he suffered a broken neck that left him paralyzed below the waist. Early in his career, Gerein was active in swimming and wheelchair rugby, winning a number of provincial and national championships before deciding to focus on athletics. He was also the co-ordinator for the Saskatchewan Wheelchair Sports Association and served on the board of the National Sports Centre in Saskatchewan.

Gerein has been an inspiration to many along the way, serving as a coach and mentor to the likes of Moose Jaw's Lisa Franks, a sixtime Paralympic gold medallist.

"My life was forever altered the day I met Clayton," Franks told the Canadian Paralympic Committee. "Clayton introduced me to wheelchair racing, and coached me while I competed on the Canadian team. Both as an athlete and a coach, he offered a unique wealth of knowledge. His dedication to sport was an example to follow. He completed each training cycle with precision and truly loved competition."

Gerein's influence also extends to his proud family.

"He inspired so many people in wheelchair (sports) and everyone around him so it's nice for it to be noticed," added Zoe, who noted that her father was always quick to downplay personal accolades. "He was very modest. He had a personality that he would just brush it off ... but you know deep down he was very happy about his accomplishments."

gharder@leaderpost.com

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