Pride of the Cowichan Tribes - Richard Peter Brings Home Paralympic Gold

Richard Peter

The first thing you notice is the 1000-watt smile. And Richard Peter has a lot to smile about. The 32-year-old wheelchair basketball athlete from Cowichan Tribes is at the top of his sport, playing on the Canadian national team since 1994 and winning his second gold medal at the Paralympic Games in Athens last year. He also recently got engaged to fellow Paralympian, Marni Abbott, and the two plan to start a family soon.

Richard Peter
Richard Peter in action at the 2004 Summer Paralympic Games in Athens.

Richard has everything it takes to be a high-performance athlete: positive attitude, a genuine love of the game, and the talent, strength and determination it takes to succeed. When he's not shooting hoops or training at the gym, Richard meets with athletes and students throughout the province, encouraging them to work hard, maintain a positive attitude and, above all, follow their dreams. His message: hard work pays off, and if you want something badly enough, you'll find a way to make it happen.

Photo credits:
Jean-Baptiste Benavent/Canadian Paralympic Committee (above) and Benoit Pelosse/Canadian Paralympic Committee (right)

We asked Richard Peter some questions about his life as a Paralympic athlete:

Q: How did you get started in wheelchair basketball?
A: I was injured when I was four years old - I was run over by a bus. But growing up I still played sports with my cousins and friends, which was great because I had to push my wheelchair to keep up with the other kids and this kept me in good shape. I started playing wheelchair basketball when I was 15 and I've been on the Canadian team for the past 11 years. It takes a lot of hard work and training to make it to a national team, but, of course, it pays off in the end.

Q: What was the greatest challenge to getting to where you are now?
A: As a First Nations athlete, it can be hard. There are financial and transportation barriers. But I'm very proud of being First Nations and I think I show others in my community that whatever the obstacle, you can get to the top with a lot of hard work.

Q: How do you feel about the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games coming to British Columbia?
A: It's a great opportunity, not just for First Nations but for any athlete to come out and watch that level of sport right in our backyard. And local athletes will benefit from being able to train at the Olympic sites year-round. It's also great that the North American Indigenous Games will be held in my hometown of Cowichan in 2008. These Games are another stepping stone for First Nations athletes to move on to the World Championships or the Olympics.

Q: How has sports changed your life?
A: Sports has opened so many doors for me. I chose to make myself better and do something that I really loved. People give up on their dreams because there are obstacles, but sometimes you have to get out there and overcome the obstacles and reach for the star that's right in front of you.