One of wheelchair rugby’s greatest-ever players, Garett Hickling was an influential leader on the Canadian national team for 20 years during a very successful career. Feared by the opposition for his toughness, hard hitting and scoring ability, Hickling’s many talents were instrumental in Canada becoming one of the world’s top countries in the sport.
Hickling burst on the international stage earning tournament MVP at the first three world championships in the sport (1995, 1998, and 2002) – including Canada’s breakthrough gold medal performance in the third iteration of the event. Hickling was also one of the trailblazers in the worldwide popularity of the sport competing at the first five Paralympic Games that included wheelchair rugby – Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000, Athens 2004, Beijing 2008, and London 2012.
He helped Canada to the podium in four of his five Paralympic Games participations. He owns a silver medal from 1996, 2004, and 2012, as well as a bronze from 2008. Canadians came to learn more about this quiet leader as he made headlines as Canada’s Opening Ceremony Flag Bearer at the London 2012 Games. At those Games, it was Hickling who generated a key turnover and scored the winning goal in the final seconds of Canada’s semifinal against their U.S. rivals.
Throughout his 20 years as a top-level athlete, Hickling battled through many injuries. He had to have his neck realigned in 2005 in a 10-hour surgery, he ripped his left triceps in 2008 and in 2011 he separated his right shoulder.
In addition to his accolades at the Paralympic Games, Hickling has five world championships medals (gold, two silver, and two bronze).
As a youngster, Hickling was always very active in sport. Born in Mica Creek, he grew up in British Columbia and played many sports including hockey, baseball, soccer, basketball, and volleyball.
In 1987, at age 16, Hickling and two friends were hiking an unfamiliar B.C. trail at night when they fell off a cliff and dropped more than 300 feet; one of his friends died and the other was severely injured while Hickling was left a quadriplegic. Hickling tried many wheelchair sports, including basketball and road hockey before tackling wheelchair rugby about five years after his accident.
Hickling was recruited into the sport in 1993 by Duncan Campbell, one of the sport’s creators and key builders: “He got me to come out, [I] hit my first guy – knocked him out of his chair – and haven't looked back since” Hickling said when he was featured on CNN's Human to Hero series in 2012.
The wheelchair rugby legend has returned the favour by helping the next generation of players. He is extremely well-respected in the community, and has been a role model for many, including Paralympians Mike Whitehead, Travis Murao, and Cody Caldwell. Now living in London, Ont., he is also involved in the sport today as a coach and recruiter, sharing his knowledge and experience.
In recent years, Hickling has been deservedly recognized for his immense contributions and achievements. In 2015, he became the first wheelchair rugby player to be inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame. Campbell was inducted the same year in the pioneer category. He is also a member of the Central Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame in Kelowna and the Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association Hall of Fame.
And last year, Hickling’s name was etched in the International Wheelchair Rugby Federation Hall of Fame.