Canadian icons helped Pat Anderson transition to life as a double amputee

Canadian Paralympic Committee

May 31, 2023

Witnessed Rick Hansen and Terry Fox before accident


OTTAWA – For Patrick Anderson, regarded by many as the greatest wheelchair basketball player of all time, National AccessAbility Week is a time for him to reflect on Canada’s great Para trailblazers, including two who forever changed the world for people with a disability.

National AccessAbility Week, from May 28 to June 3, is an annual initiative to celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of people with a disability and bring awareness to the work still needed to be done to remove barriers and promote inclusion.

Even though he now lives in New York City and has played professionally in Australia and Europe, the Fergus, Ont. native says it’s two of Canada’s great heroes that are forever etched in his heart.

‘’In Canada we’ve been fortunate in a lot of ways,’’ said Anderson after a recent practice at the Ottawa Invitational tournament. ‘’I think of Rick Hansen, Terry Fox, guys that I knew growing up before I was disabled. They were icons of athleticism and spirit.’’

In fact, Anderson – who became a double amputee at age nine after being hit by a drunk driver – saw both legends in the flesh as a youngster.

‘’I witnessed the Terry Fox Marathon of Hope and Rick Hansen wheeled in the snow in my hometown just months before my own accident.’’

Hansen and Anderson would soon connect again.

‘’After the accident I was on the phone with him, he was calling me to check in on me,” said Anderson. ‘’He said: ‘hey this is Rick Hansen, I heard you were in an accident, it’s going to be okay, there’s basketball, you’ll get through this and come out of the other side okay.’”

Thus began one of the most incredible careers in Canadian sport. By age 16, Anderson was a member of Team Ontario’s wheelchair basketball team at the Canada Games winning the bronze medal. He was national champion a year later.

In 1997, he led Canada to gold and was named tournament MVP at the world junior championships and in 2000 at 21, he won the first of three Paralympic Games titles. His domination in the sport was officially underway.

The 43-year-old Anderson hopes Canadians with a disability continue to tap into the many examples of those who’ve shown the country there are no limitations in life.

‘’In Canada we’ve had such a head start with these icons, there’s spirit and hope in their individual stories.”

Those great examples now very much include Anderson as well.

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