By: Richard “Bear” Peter
Growing up in a large family, I learned the importance of being a good teammate. The playing field was a classroom of sorts, and it is where I discovered the significance of teamwork.
Even though I have been in a wheelchair since I was four years old, I have always kept myself active playing any sport I could. For many years this simply meant playing with my family, but when your Mom and Dad both have 12 brothers and sisters, it makes for more than just a quick game in the backyard.
I owe a lot to my parents for keeping me active in sports in those early years. Even though I wasn’t aware of organized wheelchair sports at the time, they always made sure that I was out there with my cousins playing all the sports I could.
I tried out a lot of different sports. I played everything from track, tennis, hockey and basketball, but it was the team sports that always resonated the most with me. I don’t know if this was because I come from such a big family, but I always felt most comfortable as a part of a team. Maybe you could say that I got lonely out there sometimes. All I know is that being a part of a team and working together towards a common goal has been a defining aspect of my life.
When I was introduced to wheelchair basketball at the age of 15, I never thought that I would be able to make a career out of it. However, the sport quickly grew on me and I soon found myself competing at the highest levels. I have been able to represent Canada in wheelchair basketball since 1994 and have won a number of medals and championships with the team along the way.
Over the years, my role has changed quite a bit with the Canadian team. I still remember coming into the squad and being given the nickname “Little Bear” by some of the senior guys. My position in the team grew over time and I began to take on more responsibility as a mentor for the younger guys and help them learn from my own experiences. Now I’m just “Bear,” but I still try to channel the tenacity of that little bear mentality when I’m on the court.
Just as being a good teammate is vital for the success of your team, so too is being a good citizen for the development of your community. Being a member of the Cowichan Tribes of British Columbia and the only First Nations athlete on Canada’s Paralympic Team at the 2008 Beijing Games, I have a unique responsibility to represent both of these communities. Although I didn’t get involved in sport with this in mind, I am proud to be able to act as a role model for both the wheelchair and First Nations communities.
In 2007, before heading to Beijing to represent Canada at the Paralympics, I was lucky enough to become a part of another team – Team Visa. Not only did this help facilitate my involvement in national and international competition, it also provided me with the opportunity to better connect with the community at large. In some respects, without the help of Team Visa, I wouldn’t be able to continue playing the game I love.
As a veteran of the wheelchair basketball program in Canada, I have been given the chance to travel all over the world to play basketball. It is an honour and privilege to be able to represent my teammates, my community and my country on the world stage. I always say, “You’re not always here for a long time, so make it a good time.” I feel confident that I am doing just that.
Paralympic Wheelchair Basketball
Richard Peter has been a member of the Paralympic men’s wheelchair basketball team for 17 years. As a member of the Cowichan Tribes of British Columbia, Richard was the only First Nations athlete on Canada’s Paralympic Team in Beijing.
He has won gold medals at the 2006 Paralympic World Cup, 2006 Gold Cup World Championships, 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens, and the 2000 Sydney Paralympic Games in Australia. In 2010, he was inducted into the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame.
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