From able bodied runner to wheelchair racer in the span of less than a year
In April 2003, Surrey's Lou Gibson competed in the Vancouver Sun Run and ran the course in 53 minutes. One month later, he was hit by a car while training on his bike for the triathlon. So now, in April 2004, he will take to the streets of Vancouver once again but this time he will wheel the course in his first Sun Run since becoming a paraplegic.
"It's so funny when I think about it now," says Gibson. "Last year I had a cold but I thought I'd run it anyway. I knew I could have done it in a better time and I told myself next year I would. I never thought I'd be racing in a chair this year."
Gibson remembers that early morning in Surrey almost a year ago as if it were yesterday. It was a day like any other. He was training at 8:00 a.m. when he was knocked off his bike by a passing vehicle. The next two and a half months were spent recovering and rehabilitating.
"I can't say enough about the acute care I got from the staff at Vancouver General Hospital and G.F. Strong Rehabilitation Centre," he continues. "The first couple of weeks in the hospital there was a definite period of depression. You look around you at the medical staff walking around and you know you will never do that again. You then lose a sense of dignity when the hospital staff has to do things for you that you've always done yourself. But they treated me with respect and a professionalism that went far beyond their professional duties."
Gibson was itching to get back into his previous healthy lifestyle and attended a Have-A-Go Day hosted by BC Wheelchair Sports Association. ŒHave-A-Go' Days allow participants with disabilities to try a variety of sports in a participatory and non-threatening atmosphere.
"I tried tennis, basketball and hockey but it was the wheelchair racing that really stuck with me." And stuck with it he did. While rehabbing at GF Strong, Gibson would wheel himself to Eric Hamber and join a weekly training session on the track. "It was a way for me to maintain my level of fitness and exercise." Once he was release on August 8, 2003, Gibson kept up the pace.
"I watch an athlete like Brad Skeats, a quadriplegic, train and he inspires me. I see how hard Paralympian Kelly Smith works everyday and it makes me work that much harder."
"Lou has been a model Bridging the Gap participant," says Karen Tapp, Bridging the Gap Program Coordinator at BC Wheelchair Sports Association. "He took advantage of our wheelchair loan program and within less than a year, he purchased his own sport chair. Lou has participated in wheelchair tennis tournaments, road racing events and he has even found time to volunteer his time with BCWSA and show others with spinal cord injuries what the possibilities can be."
Gibson doesn't dwell on what should have been or what could have been. He concentrates on what will be and now, he considers himself a wheelchair racer.
"Life experiences make you better. I just thank God I'm alive and keep moving on."
BCWSA is a non-profit organization committed to leadership in the promotion and development of wheelchair sport opportunities for British Columbians with physical disabilities.
For more information contact
Bridging the Gap Program Coordinator
BC Wheelchair Sports Association