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Wheelchair athlete retires on Paralympic high
Richard Peter’s illustrious international wheelchair basketball career is now over.
And three simple words confirmed this.
“I am retired,” said Peter, who had been a member of the Canadian men’s wheelchair basketball squad since 1994.
The 40-year-old Vancouver resident, who is a member of British Columbia’s Cowichan Tribes, couldn’t have asked for a better way to finish off his career.
Peter was a member of the Canadian club that captured the gold medal at the recent Paralympics in London, England.
Peter and his teammates downed Australia 64-58 in the gold-medal match, which was held on Sept. 8.
“It definitely worked out according to plan,” Peter said of the tournament, which proved to be his swan song in international play.
Peter has used a wheelchair since the age of four when he was run over by a school bus. He’s been paralyzed from the waist down since breaking his spine in that accident.
But it was a quarter century ago—when he was 15—that Peter got interested in wheelchair basketball. That was after a team came to his high school for a demonstration of the sport.
Besides his gold medal from London, Peter had numerous other highlights during his career.
In fact, he ended up winning four Paralympic medals. He also helped Canada win the gold at the 2000 and 2004 Paralympics, which were staged in Sydney, Australia and Athens, Greece, respectively.
Plus he was on the Canadian side which captured the silver medal at the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing, China.
Peter also participated in the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta. That was the only time he returned from the Paralympics without some hardware; the Canadians finished fifth in that tournament.
In addition to his Paralympics’ haul, Peter also ended up with four medals—one gold and three bronze—from world championships.
This year’s gold medal at the Paralympics might have come as a surprise to some. That’s because the Canadians had finished seventh at the last world championships held in 2010 in Manchester, England.
But Peter was not among those surprised to see Canada celebrating in London after this year’s Paralympic gold-medal contest.
“We had been playing really well throughout the year,” he said. “And we had beaten some of the top teams.”
Canada was one of 12 countries that competed in the men’s wheelchair basketball tournament in London.
Peter and his teammates tasted victory in all eight of their matches.
“I think that’s what we expected,” Peter said of his club’s undefeated streak. “Great Britain was really strong. And we knew the Australians would be strong. That was our plan though, to go in and take care of everybody.”
Canada registered round-robin wins over Colombia, Germany, Japan, Poland and host Great Britain.
That was followed by a 77-51 victory over Spain in a quarter-final battle. And the Canadians then secured their spot in the championship match by beating Great Britain, for the second time in the tournament, 69-52 in a semi-final.
Peter said nagging injuries are the main reason he has decided to retire from the international wheelchair basketball scene.
“My body is letting me know it’s time,” he said.
Besides his numerous appearances with the Canadian national side over the years, Peter also played the sport professionally in Europe.
From 2008 through 2010 he toiled for a club (RSV Lahn-Dill) in Germany. And then the following season he joined an Italian team called Elecom Lottomatica Roma.
At this point Peter is unsure if he will ever play the sport again, even recreationally. But there is one thing he is certain of.
“I’m going to take all of the next year off from basketball,” he said. “There will be no playing and no coaching. But who knows what will happen after that.”
Peter has already been told by numerous people that he would make a great coach. Plus he wouldn’t have to go far to get some coaching tips.
His wife Marni, a former national team player, is an assistant coach of the Canadian women’s wheelchair basketball team.
The Canadian women’s side posted a 3-1 round-robin record in its 10-nation tournament at this year’s Paralympics. But the Canadians were then eliminated from further action after losing 67-55 to the United States in their quarter-final game.
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