OTTAWA – He was a mainstay on Canada’s men’s wheelchair basketball team, an anchor through Team Canada’s glory years in the 1990s and 2000s before he hung up his jersey following a golden performance at the majestic 2012 Paralympic Games in London.
But Richard Peter is back on court again, this time as a member of Canada’s national Para badminton squad.
Last month, he was nominated to Canada’s Para badminton team for the 2019 Parapan American Games.
That’s a first step towards returning to the Paralympic Games in 2020.
In wheelchair basketball, the 46-year-old from Duncan, B.C. competed at five Paralympics between 1996 and 2012. He won three gold medals (2000, 2004, 2012) and a silver (in 2008). He earned numerous awards during his career and was inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame in 2010.
He is also a revered member of the Cowichan Tribes of British Columbia and won the Tom Longboat National Award for Aboriginal Male Athlete of the Year twice.
In 2017, Peter was working with Spinal Cord B.C. when Badminton Canada approached him to recruit some athletes for the Para badminton nationals that were being held in Vancouver that year.
“I found some players but I also figured I should play since I enjoy many sports,” said Peter. “So I participated and had a lot of fun. The coaches seemed impressed and recommended I keep playing on.
“So here I am.”
Para badminton is a new addition to the program for both the Parapan Ams this August in Lima and at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo. Peter competes in one of two wheelchair divisions (WH1). There are also categories for amputees, cerebral palsy players, and short stature players.
“My wheelchair skills have helped my game,” said Peter about his fast ascension in the sport. “However, I’m behind in badminton experience. Mainly learning the correct technique of hitting all the shots whether its serves, returns. When I started, they said I was holding the racquet like a frying pan when I made my shots.
“I’ve learned a lot since then and now playing against more experienced players I try to learn every game, so I see the proper techniques. When they serve, I can see it clearly and how they get it to go short or deep.”
That kind of dedication and positive reinforcement was the shot in the arm the Badminton Canada Para program needed. A player like Peter brings more than results to the table. He is a valuable resource for a new program at all levels from player development, both physical and mental, to coaching to administration.
“With a lot of the players and coaches I give them some input with travelling and getting ready for competitions,” he said. “I know the importance of not worrying about the last shot and to focus on the next point. Just keep going forward. I try to keep players calm when things get very tense. It’s the experience I’ve acquired from playing so many high-level games.”
One of the players directly benefitting from Peter is his doubles partner Bernard Lapointe. Also an avid sportsman, Lapointe is still learning the ropes about the intricacies of international competition and representing Team Canada.
“With Richard’s experience I’m not stressed,” said Lapointe. “We room together and we talk a lot about everything. When you go to tournaments with someone who’s been there before, it makes it easier.”
Peter feels the addition of Para badminton to major Games is going to benefit the Paralympic Movement not only in Canada but around the world.
“A lot of these players have been playing for many years whether it is in their own communities or on teams,” he said. “Now everyone is coming out of the woodworks. I’m sure most people have played badminton whether it’s at the beach, in the backyard, at school.
“It’s great that more people can get the opportunity to give it a try and maybe make it to the Paralympics.”