Since the last time I penned my column, the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame has welcomed in our newest slate of inductees with the class of 2019 officially entering the hallowed hall on Sept. 28.
The individuals being honoured represented a wide variety of sports and hailed from communities all across the region.
One of the inductions marked the first time that an athlete who competed in the Special Olympics made their way into the Hall of Fame.
His name is Paul Wragg and not only did he compete, he shone.
His powerlifting career saw him set world records and twice represent Canada with distinction on the world stage sweeping his category at both the 1999 and 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games earning him six gold medals for his efforts.
With Wragg’s career recently being celebrated and with Thunder Bay getting set to host the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games from Feb. 25-29, 2020, I thought it was the perfect time to take a look back at the origins of the Special Olympics program from the local to the world level.
I am thankful to Rob Neff, a long-time volunteer with the local SSpecial Olympics program, who provided me with some information to include in this column.
When I read through Neff’s information I was surprised to learn that the origins of the Special Olympics actually have a Canadian connection. During the 1960s, Dr. Frank Hayden of the University of Toronto undertook research about the effect that exercise had on people with an intellectual disability. His groundbreaking discoveries caught the attention of the Kennedy Foundation in Washington, D.C. and, working alongside the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver — the founder of the Special Olympics — he was integral to the hosting of the first Special Olympic Games that took place in 1968 at Chicago’s Soldier Field which featured about 1,000 athletes from the U.S. and Canada.
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