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Black History Month 2023: Sharing Stories

Black History Month 2023: Sharing Stories
The 2023 theme for Black History Month is: “Ours to tell”. This theme represents both an opportunity to engage in open dialogue and a commitment to learning more about the stories Black communities in Canada have to tell
In Ontario, Parasport pioneers were paramount in charting a revolutionary new course for athletes with a disability. This is exceptionally true for the Black athletes and advocates who have played, and continue to play, an important part in the growth of parasport. A few heroic stories are shared below.

Wilma Rudolph-Eldridge, who was the toast of the 1960 Rome Olympics when she won triple gold, was with us [Toronto Olympiad 1976] during the past two days. Her special interest in our Olympiad arises from the fact that she herself triumphed over disability. As a young girl, she contracted polio and wore braces until she was eight.

Angella Taylor-Issajenko, a world-class Canadian sprinter, brought her enthusiasm to the 1987 Ontario Games for the Physically Disabled. She, and her internationally acclaimed coach Charlie Francis, were at the North York Civic Stadium to cheer on the athletes. With over 43 Canadian records since 1979, in distances ranging from 50 yards to 600 metres, Taylor-Issajenko was an inspiration to all Canadian athletes, able-bodied and those with disabilities alike. She won an Olympic silver medal in the 4×100 metres relay in Los Angeles in 1984. Between 1979–1987, she was ranked inside the world’s top ten in the 100-metre event six times, and in the 200-metre three times.

Faye Blackwood’s running career started early. She ran more seriously in high school and eventually competed with the University of Waterloo track team. In 1984 she was ranked third in Canada in the 100-metre hurdles. Her focus was on qualifying for the 1984 Olympic Track and Field Team competing in Los Angeles. Her Olympic dreams were shattered when she fell during her qualifying race and broke her wrist. Deep disappointment did not deter. She went on to win a silver medal at the 1985 Pacific Conference Games in the 4x100m women’s relay and reached the semi-finals in hurdles at the 1986 Commonwealth Games. She retired from the National Team after the Olympic trials in 1988.

Blackwood’s drive to excel is balanced with her compassion for others. Throughout her athletic career, she worked full-time at Variety Village and Sport for Disabled Ontario (now ParaSport Ontario). Upon her retirement as an athlete, she focused on coaching athletes with disabilities and coached at a number of World Championship and Paralympic Games. At the 1992 games in Barcelona, she was the Ambulatory Coach for Athletes with Cerebral Palsy. It is believed that between 1992 and 2000, Faye worked with every competitive runner with cerebral palsy in Canada in one way or another.

Blackwood was inducted into the Canadian Cerebral Palsy Sport Association Hall of Fame in 2011. She believes there is very little difference between able-bodied athletes and athletes with disabilities. “They both want the same things; they want to be the very best that they can be. Winning is great, but not as important as being the best that you can be. Sport is a way of life for life.

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We acknowledge the land on which ParaSport® Ontario was built is the Treaty Lands and Territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit and the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe, the Wendat, and the Haudenosaunee peoples, many of whom continue to live and work here today. This territory is covered by the Upper Canada Treaties and is within the land protected by the Dish with One Spoon Wampum agreement to peaceably share and care for the resources around the Great Lakes. Today Toronto (also known as Tkaronto) is home to many First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples and acknowledging reminds us that our great standard of living is directly related to the resources and friendship of Indigenous people.

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