By Canadian Paralympic Committee, paralympic.ca
Five outstanding Canadians were honoured for their contributions to the Paralympic Movement at an inspiring ceremony in Ottawa this past Friday, Oct. 21.
The new inductees to the Canadian Paralympic Committee included Senator Joyce Fairbairn, five-time Paralympian Ljiljana Ljubisic, seven-time Paralympian Clayton Gerein, 21-time Paralympic medalist Michael Edgson, and Dr. Earl Church.
Senator Joyce Fairbairn – Builder – Lethbridge, AB
Senator Fairbairn represented the Government of Canada at the Nagano 1998 Paralympic Winter Games. While at those Games she learned that there might not be enough money to send a team to the next Paralympic Games in Sydney, Australia. To help remedy this situation, Senator Fairburn founded a group, “Friends of the Paralympics,” to raise money for the Canadian Paralympic Committee and its athletes. This group became a strong political and fundraising voice for the Canadian Paralympic Movement. Following the Sydney Games in 2000, Senator Fairbairn helped found the Canadian Paralympic Foundation and became its Chair, with a goal to ensure long-term financial support for Paralympic athletes and the CPC.
During her distinguished career, Senator Fairbairn has been a noted journalist, senior legislative advisor to Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau and the first woman to be named Leader of the Government in the Senate.
Ljiljana Ljubisic – Athlete – Burnaby, BC
Ljiljana (Lilo) Ljubisic is a five-time Paralympic athlete. From 1984 to 2004, Lilo successfully represented Canada in Goalball and Para-athletics. At her first Paralympic Games in 1984, Lilo competed in Goalball where she won a silver medal. Over the next four years, she began to train in Para-athletics with a specialty in the discus throw and shot put. In fact, Lilo was the first blind athlete to ever spin with a discus. Throughout her athletic career, Lilo recorded 19 international podium finishes and earned six Paralympic medals, including a gold medal at the 1992 Paralympic Summer Games in Barcelona, Spain.
Along with her athletic achievements, Lilo has been acknowledged for her leadership and contribution to the international world of sport and the Paralympic Movement. Awards earned by Lilo include the AthletesCAN Leadership Award (2005) and the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women in Sport and Physical Activity (CAAWS) Women of Distinction Award (2004). She was also named one of the 20 Most Influential Women in Sport & Physical Activity (CAAWS, 2003-2005) and was listed in the Top 100 of Canada’s Most Powerful Women in 2007 (Women’s Executive Network). A 1992 B.C. Athlete of the Year recipient, Lilo was elected as the first female Chair of the International Paralympic Committee’s Athletes’ Council.
Clayton Gerein – Athlete – Pilot Butte, SK
Clayton Gerein was an influential leader and mentor throughout his entire life. In 1985, Clayton began playing Wheelchair Athletics and Wheelchair Rugby. He helped lead his Wheelchair Rugby team to numerous national gold medals until 1991 when he decided to focus his training on Wheelchair Athletics. Determination and hard work paid off for Clayton as he became a seven-time Paralympian with an outstanding record in international competition: he won three gold medals at the 1988 Paralympic Games; two gold medals at the 1992 Paralympics; gold, silver, and bronze medals at the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta and the gold medal in the marathon at the Sydney Paralympics in 2000.
Clayton also received numerous honours, including the 2001 Fred Begley Award for Outstanding Off-Track Athlete and the Canada 125 Medal for exceptional contributions to Canadian sport. He was named Saskatchewan Sports Athlete of the year in 1987, 1996, and 2001.
As an athlete and coach, Clayton led a healthy, active lifestyle and helped promote these values by visiting Wascana Rehab Center to introduce newly-injured individuals to sports and recreation. He also coached other wheelchair athletes, was the Athletics Coordinator for the Saskatchewan Wheelchair Sports Association, and served on the board of the National Sports Centre in Saskatchewan.
Clayton passed away on January 22, 2010, after a brief battle with cancer and has left a legacy that will continue to inspire all to seek balance in community involvement, sport, and family.
Michael Edgson – Athlete – Born in North Vancouver and grew up in Nanaimo, BC
Michael Edgson was born on May 6, 1969, in North Vancouver, but spent his youth in Nanaimo, B.C. He is one of Canada’s most successful athletes, whose performances continue to rank him amongst the very best. One of the most decorated Paralympic athletes in Canadian history, Michael, a visually-impaired swimmer, captured 18 gold and three silver medals while setting nine world records over three Paralympic Games. At the 1988 Paralympics in Seoul, South Korea, he won nine gold medals en route to setting four world records.
These accomplishments earned him the BC Disabled Athlete of the Year Award on three occasions and he was a finalist for the Canadian Athlete of the Year award in 1992. After his swimming career, Michael was part of the Victoria Commonwealth Games Society where he was responsible for the field of play of swimming at the Victoria Commonwealth Games. Inducted into the Terry Fox Hall of Fame, Michael was also the first Paralympic swimmer to be inducted into Swimming Canada’s Circle of Excellence in 2009. Michael continues to contribute to sport in Canada as the Finance Director for the Canadian Paralympic Committee.
Dr. Earl Church – Coach – Welland, ON. Now coaching at l’Université de Moncton and South East Athletics, New Brunswick
Dr. Church was already a well-known and respected athletics coach when he was introduced to Paralympic sport in 1989. His involvement grew over the next 19 years to include coaching in four Paralympic Games (1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004), in addition to many World Championships and other international events. Dr. Church was part of the coaching staff of the first fully-integrated athletics team at the 1994 World Athletics Championships.
Dr. Church made an extraordinary contribution to the sport of throwing for athletes with cerebral palsy. Many of his athletes, including three-time Paralympic gold medallist, Joanne Berdan, have earned world and Paralympic medals and credit Dr. Church for providing them with the boost they needed to make it to the next level. Dr. Church brought credibility and professionalism to the sport of Para-athletics and pushed the physical boundaries of athletes with a disability.
A former Executive Director of the Canadian Cerebral Palsy Sport Association, Dr. Church helped build relations between the organization and other sporting bodies such as Athletics Canada. He has served as a mentor to many Para-Athletics coaches and is an advocate for equal opportunities for the education of parasport coaches and athletes. He is esteemed by coaches and athletes across Canada and around the world and continues to be an executive of the Coaching Association of Ontario. He is also actively involved in both the Canadian and International Olympic Academies.
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