Throwback Thursday: Rick Hansen and The Man in Motion World Tour

Rick Hansen passes the flame to Chantal Petitclerc during the Opening Ceremonies for the Toronto 2015 Parapan Ams
Rick Hansen passes the flame to Chantal Petitclerc during the Opening Ceremonies for the Toronto 2015 Parapan Ams

40,000 kilometres, 34 countries, and four continents in 792 days.

Between March 21, 1985 and May 22, 1987, Rick Hansen embarked on a remarkable and inspiring journey in his wheelchair to raise money for people with disabilities. His adventure was followed on an international level and helped change the way people living with disabilities are perceived, while raising $26 million in the process.

Long before The Man in Motion World Tour, Hansen was born in Port Alberni, B.C. and grew up in different parts throughout the Western province. At the age of 15, Hansen was thrown from the back of a pickup truck and sustained a spinal cord injury, paralyzing him from the waist down. Just a year later, his athletic career began.

A gold medal at the Pacific Northwest Games for the Disabled in table tennis would be his first accolade. Soon after, he attended the University of British Columbia and became the first person with a physical disability to graduate with a physical education degree.

So much of what Hansen accomplished in his life was groundbreaking, so it was fitting that he met Terry Fox in 1977.

A member of the Canadian Paralympic team and an exceptional track and marathon athlete, he won nine gold medals at the 1982 Parapan Am Games and added two gold medals and a silver at the 1984 Paralympic Games in Stoke Mandeville, United Kingdom. His athletic achievements propelled him to the Disabled Athlete of the Year Award on three separate occasions.

A year later, The Man in Motion World Tour, was in motion. Hansen began his gruelling trek across the world in his home province with a purpose of raising awareness for those with disabilities. 30,000 strokes a day is enough to cause illness and injury, which it did, but Hansen fought through it. Washington, Oregon, and California were just the beginning. He pushed through Australia, New Zealand, the Middle East, China, South Korea, and Japan.

According to his website, he had reached 7,180,800 strokes and more than 12,000 miles at the halfway point of his tour. Upon his return to North America in the summer of 1986, Hansen started working his way home from Miami, Fla. He travelled up through the East Coast of the United States before heading to Canada’s own East Coast in Newfoundland. He travelled all the way across the Maritimes and made his way to a meeting with the Prime Minister and a cheque for one million dollars in the nation’s capital.

His home in British Columbia was always the end goal. 50,000 people were awaiting Hansen’s return in Vancouver to celebrate what he had accomplished. He had become a known commodity around the World and played a crucial role in the Paralympic movement that continues to grow today, along with the Rick Hansen Foundation. The accolades and awards that have followed Hansen’s success throughout his lifetime seem to be a never-ending list. But what headlines them all is The Man in Motion World Tour — something that will go down as one of the most incredible individual accomplishments in Canadian history.

For more on Hansen’s remarkable journey, visit

Photo Credit: Canadian Paralympic Committee

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