A new initiative by the International Paralympic Committee in 2005, the Paralympic Awards today are held biannually during non-Games years, and recognize the outstanding contributions made by athletes, members of the Paralympic Movement, and supporters that contribute to the success of the Paralympic Games.
Awards are handed out in three different categories: the Paralympic Sport Awards which honour top athletes, teams, and officials from the Paralympic Games, the Paralympic Scientific Awards which celebrate individuals in the academic or scientific fields who have made significant contributions to sport for people with a disability, and the Paralympic Media Awards which recognize excellent coverage of the Paralympic Games.
In that first year of the awards in 2005, Canada was well-represented, showing its place as a leader within the Paralympic Movement.
The Canadian men’s wheelchair basketball team was awarded Best Team Performance for their gold-medal winning performance at the Athens 2004 Games a year prior. It was Canada’s second straight Paralympic gold and the second of what would become four consecutive medals by the team.
Other Canadians nominated for the Paralympic Sport Awards were Para swimmer Benoît Huot for best male athlete, wheelchair racer Chelsea Clark for best Games debut, and Chantal Petitclerc for top female athlete.
Canada’s Dr. Colin Higgs became the first person to receive the Paralympic Scientific Award, which is awarded to just one person every two years.
Higgs, of St. John’s N.L., received the award as a long-time leader within Paralympic sport research and physical activity for people with a disability. He designed and developed racing wheelchairs for physically disabled athletes and has been relentless in his pursuit on an inclusive Canadian sport system.
Since 2005, Canada has gone on to claim numerous other awards. In the Sport Awards, Canada was home to the best female (Lauren Woolstencroft), best male (Brian McKeever), and best team (Para ice hockey) in 2007, while Petitclerc nabbed top female athlete honours in 2009.
Dr. Gary Wheeler was the 2007 Paralympic Scientific Award winner, and Professor Jennifer Mactavish won in 2015. In the media awards, reporter Gary Kingston, then of the Vancouver Sun, received the written award in 2011 for his work at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Games, while the Canadian Paralympic Media Consortium nabbed top broadcast honours in 2017 for its Rio coverage.
This year, the Canadian Paralympic Committee and Pfizer Canada are celebrating 25 years of supporting and promoting the Paralympic Movement together. Throughout 2021, we will look back on special sporting moments and milestones from each year of the partnership.
Click here to read each moment so far.