The Next Chapter

Rick Hansen on the inspiring people behind his Man in Motion Tour

The Paralympic athlete recognizes the people, effort and inspiration that shaped his story and commemorative book.
Athlete and philanthropist Rick Hansen revisits the struggles behind his personal triumphs 30 years later. (Rick Hansen Foundation/Greystone Books)

So many were touched by his grit and determination in his 1985 Man in Motion Tour. As he circumnavigated the globe, Rick Hansen wheeled the equivalent of two marathons a day for two years, two months and two days along 40,072 kilometers. Having suffered a spinal cord injury at the age of 15, he did this to show the world the potential of people with disabilities. Rick Hansen's Man in Motion Tour: 30 Years Later is an anniversary celebration of the epic 26 months. It's written by Jake MacDonald with a forward by Hansen. 

The Paralympic gold medalist and activist joined Shelagh Rogers in CBC's Toronto studio.

The team behind the man

"I look back on the tour from this perspective and it's more of a powerful reflection of gratitude. Rick Hansen's Man in Motion Tour: 30 Years Later is meant to be a tribute to the amazing people who came along this journey and believed in my dream. When we were trying to get the tour organized, we were so undermanned and very few people believed we could do it. As a matter of fact, the biggest victory was just taking the first step out of Oakridge Mall in Vancouver.  When I was struggling and couldn't go any further, somebody else came along and they filled my sail with wind – there is always someone who will come along and help us move forward. I'll be forever grateful for the team."

Motivating friendships

"Terry Fox is a great friend of mine. He inspired me when he worked on his Marathon of Hope. When I left that day at Oakridge, his mom and dad gave me a miniature version of his statue at Thunder Bay. I took it all around the world with me. There were times when I was really struggling and thinking about giving up – I would look up and see that statue during one of my breaks and think, 'He wouldn't give up!' So we just kept going. In many ways, I was paying tribute to my buddy in the photo at the Terry Fox Memorial. It was overwhelming. " 

Learning by touring

"In the process of that two-year journey, I met so many amazing people. I also had a much more profound understanding of the magnitude of the challenge. There were so many obstacles in people's lives, and yet there was a tremendous yearning in our country and around the world to come together. People were looking for leadership and inspiration – to see ourselves in something bigger and much more important. By the time we arrived back in Newfoundland, people were there going 'Go on Rick! We're behind you! This is important to Canada! We have family members just like you and we want to remove barriers.' When I finished the tour, I realized the end was just the beginning. I would have to make it a life mission and get to the point where maybe one day we could actually see the world being accessible and inclusive for everyone and maybe even a cure for spinal injury."

Rick Hansen's comments have been edited and condensed.