A former world record holder in the marathon, Paul Clark was one of the country’s fastest wheelchair racers in the 1980s.
Competing at the 1980, 1984, and 1988 Paralympic Games in the T52 category, Clark – who grew up in Woodstock, Ont. – won two gold and eight silver medals in his storied career, racing in many different distances from sprints to the marathon.
Today, he looks back on his Paralympic experiences fondly as he nears the end of a successful career as an optometrist in Kelowna, BC.
Below we check in with Clark to learn about his favourite memories and what he’s been up to recently:
What did it mean to you to be able to represent Canada at the Paralympic Games?
Representing Canada was the biggest honour of my life, challenging myself to my limits, challenging the design rules for wheelchairs to better equalize Para categories, and representing my country on the world stage.
What are some of your favourite memories from competing for Canada?
Packed buses and planes with disabled athletes who were like me, focused on their athletic abilities not their disabilities. In France, a couple of us slipped out of the stadium to a nearby Brasserie to have a shot of espresso before the race. I remember racers like Rick Hansen in their dorm disassembling wheels and greasing bearings. I remember the Prince of Kuwait with his bodyguard smelling strongly of perfume. I remember meeting a cute volunteer at the 1980 Paralympics in Holland who is now my wife. I remember racing on the same track in Korea that Ben Johnson had raced on three weeks earlier. I remember shaking the hand of Queen Elizabeth.
What is your proudest sporting achievement from your career?
In 1988, I was the world’s best in the marathon open class in Oita, Japan. Finished in 1:38.
What are you up to now?
Married with three adult children who have all graduated from university and have solid careers. We have two grandchildren. This is my 40th year practicing as a Doctor of Optometry and I will phase to part-time practice this year. I’m active with my professional governing body. I’m active in the community leading a Neighbourhood Association.
What message would you like to share to current athletes on the road to the Tokyo Paralympic Games?
When you are training, enjoy the satisfaction it gives and plan to train every day, taking a day off only when recovery is needed or external demands arise. Awards are eclipsed by others after, yet your satisfaction in your effort remains.
Current TV show you are binge-watching: This is Us
Favorite fall/winter activity: Handcycling outdoors when possible
Hero: Jimmy Carter
Celebrity you would most want to have dinner with: Jimmy Carter
Most used emoji: 😂 (joy)
Favourite hobby: Writing
Any favourite mottos: The secret of life is to enjoy the passage of time
Each month ‘where are they now’ will feature a different member of the Canadian Paralympic alumni community to hear some of their favourite memories and check in to find out what they’re up to now.