Sault Ste. Marie has been the host of various athletic games throughout the years. In 1985, Sault Ste. Marie had the opportunity to host the Canada Games for the Physically Disabled.
In 1985, these games were still a relatively new event in sports. Prior to 1967, there were no organized sports in Canada for athletes who had physical disabilities.
The impetus to change this began in 1964 when Dr. Robert Jackson attended the Olympics in Tokyo and watched the Para Olympics for wheelchair athletes. He was disappointed that Canada did not have representation with a team competing in the Olympics.
Through Dr. Jackson’s efforts, the Canadian Wheelchair Sport Association came into effect in 1967 just in time for the Pan-American Wheelchair Games in 1967.
The following year, in 1968 Canada sent its first Para Olympic team to compete in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Further advancement came at the 1976 Olympiad which was held in Montreal and Dr. Jackson organized the 1976 Olympiad for the Physically Disabled which was held in Etobicoke, Ontario.
With the expansion to include amputee and blind athletes, instead of restricting the games to wheelchair athletes, the original Para Olympics was dropped. The spring of 1976 was the inaugural year for the tri-sport meet which took place in Cambridge, Ontario and became known as the Canadian Games for the Physically Disabled.
In the 1985 games, competition events consisted of swimming, track and field, pentathlon, slalom, weightlifting and table tennis for wheelchair. Swimming, track and field, pentathlon, showdown, powerlifting and air rifle/air pistol for the blind.
Finally, for amputees, the sporting events included swimming, track and field, pentathlon, weightlifting, table tennis, volleyball and basketball as an exhibition sport.
It is worth noting that within each classification of wheelchair, blind and amputee sport, the athletes are further divided according to their disability. Examples of this would be for wheelchair athletes who would be separated between quadriplegic and paraplegic.
Athletes participating in the amputee division are divided not only by which limbs have been amputated but also by which joint the amputation was done. Finally, blind athletes would be separated into three categories based on their visual acuity.
The Canada Games for the Physically Disabled began in Sault Ste. Marie on Aug. 17 and were completed on Aug. 25, with athletes from all over Canada participating.
Many of these athletes overcame adversities from accidents to illnesses to compete as athletes. As one athlete by the name of Frank DiPierdominico, who was 95 per cent blind, commented when asked about competing as a blind athlete, “To me, it is more of an inconvenience than a disability.” Showing that anyone, no matter who they are, can be a champion!