Over the years, there have been several Black Canadians who have played an important part in the history and growth of Paralympic sport in Canada.
In honour of Black History Month, below we celebrate a few of the individuals who have contributed to the Paralympic Movement in many ways, including as an athlete, coach, and guide.
Competing at four Paralympic Games and coming home with 11 medals, wheelchair racer Dean Bergeron is one of Canada’s most successful Paralympians. Bergeron made his Paralympic debut at the Atlanta 1996 Games before also participating in 2000, 2004, and 2008. In total, Bergeron captured three gold, three silver, and five bronze medals in his impressive career.
During the Paralympic Super Series Rewind in 2020, Bergeron looked back on his Paralympic experience, including the 100 metres at Beijing 2008 which is one of his most memorable races. After a bad start, he says he didn’t give up and instead focused on what he needed to do – and by the end of the sprint, he had crossed the finish line first.
The lesson he learned through that race is something he has never forgotten: “When things aren’t going well, just concentrate on what you can do the best and give the best performance you can, and never give up.”
Deion Green was first introduced to the sport of wheelchair basketball back as a child in 2000, and progressed through the junior and provincial ranks to take his place as one of the world’s best. The now 31-year-old has been a stalwart on the men’s wheelchair basketball team since 2014. He has competed at every major tournament in the past seven years including the 2016 and 2020 Paralympic Games and is a silver medallist from the 2015 and 2019 Parapan Am Games. Next on his agenda will be the 2022 world championships taking place later this year.
Wheelchair basketball player Blaise Mutware made his Paralympic debut at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games last summer, only about six years after he began playing the sport. He was first named to the national team in 2019, and that year helped Canada to a silver medal at the Lima Parapan Am Games, a result that qualified the squad for the Tokyo Games. Now a Paralympian, Mutware – also an aspiring chef – is entrenched in the international scene and has a bright future in the sport.
A longtime member of the Canadian sport community in many different roles including athlete, coach, and administrator, Faye Blackwood has many achievements to her name and has been an immense contributor to growing the Paralympic Movement in Canada. A member of the Canadian Cerebral Palsy Sport Association’s Hall of Fame as a coach, she first started working with athletes with a disability more than 30 years ago, most notably in track and field. Throughout her career she attended the 1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004 Paralympic Games, also worked specifically with Athletics Canada’s Paralympic program, and to this day is involved in coaching Para athletes and promoting Para sport.
Josh Karanja was already an accomplished individual athlete, including becoming an All American after receiving a scholarship to Eastern Michigan University, when he was connected with visually impaired Paralympic runner Jason Dunkerley. Karanja became Dunkerley’s guide in 2011, and together the pair was a force on the track. Karanja ran with Dunkerley at both the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, including winning a silver in the 5000m and bronze in 1500m in 2012. The duo also won medals at the 2015 Parapan Am Games (a gold and silver), and the 2015 world championships (silver).
While Lou Gibson’s first foray into Para sport was in wheelchair racing – he had been training for a triathlon at the time of his injury – it was in Para nordic skiing that he experienced his best success. Gibson qualified for the Vancouver 2010 Games, making his Paralympic debut not only on home soil, but in his home province. The sit skier raced in five events across biathlon and cross-country, with his best finish 18th in the 12.5km men’s sitting biathlon.
The theme for Black History Month this year is “February and Forever: Celebrating Black History today and every day”. To learn more, please CLICK HERE.