Celebrating Black History Month: Canadians who have contributed to Paralympic Movement

Canadian Paralympic Committee

February 08, 2022

From competing to coaching to guiding, Black Canadians have made an impact

Image of three Black Canadian Paralympians - On the left Powerlifter Sally Thomas, in the middle Para athletics gold medallist Dean Bergeron and on the right is Wheelchair Basketball player Blaise Mutware.

This article has been updated January 2024.

Every February, people across Canada participate in Black History Month events and festivities that honour the legacy of Black people in Canada and their communities.

The theme for Black History Month 2024 is “Black Excellence: A Heritage to Celebrate; a Future to Build.”

It is a fitting tribute to the rich past and present contributions and accomplishments of Black Canadian Paralympians and serves as an inspirational call to the next generation of black Paralympians to make their own impact at the Games.

In this spirit, let’s spotlight the remarkable journeys and enduring impact of Black Canadians who have not only excelled on the international stage but have also significantly contributed to the growth and vitality of the Paralympic Movement in Canada.


Dean Bergeron

Dean Bergeron celebrating his gold medal win at the Beijing 2008 Paralypmics.
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 at the Sydney 2000, Athens 2004, and Beijing 2008 Paralympics. In his illustrious career, 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 final 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.”


Sally Thomas

Sally Thomas competing in Para Powerlifting at the Athens 2004 Paralympics.

Not only did Sally Thomas demonstrate unparalleled strength and resilience as a Para Powerlifter, but she etched her name in the record books by becoming the first female Canadian to compete in Para Powerlifting at the Paralympics.

Thomas finished seventh at the Athens 2004 Paralympics, adding to her two top 10 finishes at the 2002 and 2006 International Paralympic Committee Powerlifting World Championships in her distinguished Powerlifting career where she earned more than 70 medals.


Deion Green

Deion Green during a game at the Lima 2019 Parapan American Games.

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 players.

Green shared with Wheelchair Basketball Canada, that his role on the hardcourt is as a jack-of-all-trades. An agile athlete, he plays the game with tenacious pace and doesn’t shy away from the physical contact. He most enjoys the speed and the camaraderie that are at the heart of the sport.

Green refers to the sport of basketball as ‘his life,’ and has enjoyed a notable career competing at every major tournament from this debut in 2014 through to 2021, including the Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games and is a silver medallist from the Toronto 2015 and Lima 2019 Parapan Am Games.


Blaise Mutware

Blaise Mutware in action during a Wheelchair Basketball game while representing Canada.

Wheelchair basketball star Blaise Mutware made his Paralympic debut at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, only some six years after he began playing the sport. First named to the national team in 2019, Mutware helped Canada to a silver medal at the Lima 2019 Parapan Am Games, a result that qualified the squad for the Tokyo Games. Most recently Mutware competed at the Santiago 2023 Parapan Am Games, where the Canadian side finished in the bronze medal position, and just outside automatic qualification for the Paris 2024 Paralympics. Mutware is focused on helping the national team to qualify for what would be his second Paralympics, at the upcoming 2024 Men’s IWBF Repechage Tournament in in Antibes, France, from April 12-15, 2024.


Faye Blackwood

Images of Faye Blackwood including a headshot on the left, her as a hurdler in the middle, and another head shot on the right.

Faye Blackwood is a longtime member of the Canadian sport community in many different roles including athlete, coach, and administrator. 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 Barcelona 1992, Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000, and Athens 2004 Paralympic Games, and has worked specifically with Athletics Canada’s Paralympic program, has been involved in coaching Para athletes and promoting Para sport across the nation.


Josh Karanja

An image of visually impaired runner Jason Dunkerley, on the left, and his guide Josh Karanja, celebrating winning the silver medal at the London 2012 Paralympics.

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 Toronto 2015 Parapan Am Games (a gold and silver), and a silver medal at the 2015 world championships.


Lou Gibson

Lou Gibson competing at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympics.

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.


George Quarcoo

George Quarcoo competing at the 2017 World Para Athletics Championships.

George Quarcoo is a Ghanaian-born Canadian track and field coach and former sprinter. He has had a distinguished career as a sprinter. Quarcoo began to lose his vision when he was nine years old and competed as a T12 classified athlete, which is for athletes who have very low vision in both eyes either in how far they can see (visual acuity) or how wide they can see (visual field).

Quarcoo specialized in the 100 metres and 200 metres sprints, and competed with his guide Adam Johnson in the Men’s T12 100m and T12 200m events at the Toronto 2015 ParaPan American Games, finishing 4th in 200m semi-final and 7th in the 100m semi-final. He went on to compete with guide Dmitry Issajenko to represent Canada at the 2017 World Para Athletics Championships and the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.

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