August 8, 2001 - The 2001 Canada Summer Games will be Vancouver's Brad Skeats first multi-sport Games experience and try as he might, it will be one in which he will find it hard to succeed. As a quadriplegic, Skeats will have to compete against paraplegics in London, ON. The Canada Games Council, in its wisdom, has made wheelchair athletics an open category. This means a paraplegic will compete against a quadriplegic in the 400 metre and 1500 metre events.
"How shall I put this," says Team BC head Coach Peter Lawless of Victoria. "It would be like pitting the men versus the women in the 100 metre event or a triple A all-star baseball team pitted against the major leagues. It's just impossible to even think it's an even playing field."
BC has the largest wheelchair athletics program in the country. In fact, quadriplegics and paraplegics make up about a 50/50 split in programming. Lawless claims he and other coaches throughout the country made several proposals to the Canada Games Council detailing the inequity of pitting quads against the paraplegics but they refused to change the rules.
"I don't feel they (Canada Games Council) have a true expectation of the sport. It's quite insulting to the athletes really. I think the big problem is a lack of understanding. We will be doing a lot of lobbying in London and hope to educate some people before the next Canada Summer Games".
Lawless claims the argument that there are not enough quadriplegics in the country to hold its own category is a circular argument.
"It's like the chicken and the egg," he adds. "When you spend time developing a system like we do in BC, the program only grows. We are evidence of that."
At the 1997 Canada Summer Games in Brandon, Manitoba, Team BC placed second overall with 262 points, 11 points behind Ontario. Team BC aims to improve on its Personal Best in 2001. The Canada Summer Games are being held in London, Ont., August 10-25, 2001 and will feature the best athletes from across Canada. British Columbia's Team BC - a team of more than 350 athletes, 70 coaches and managers, and 23 mission staff members - will field 22 teams in 17 sports.
BC Wheelchair Sports Association recently launched their new website. For information on results, sports and elite athletes, contact www.bcwheelchairsports.com.
For further information please contact
Gail Hamamoto Doré,
Director of Sport Development
BC Wheelchair Sports Association