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Jack Taunton knows first-hand how proper medical care can change a person’s life.

When he was just seven years old, he contracted polio, resulting in paralysis of his right arm and leg. Six months hospitalization and many months of extensive rehab followed, but he fully recovered.

In grade nine he was hit by a car while riding his bike from school, fracturing his foot and lower leg. 32 weeks in a cast and another long round of physiotherapy followed. Again, he fully recovered, a feat in itself, but more significantly these experiences spurred Taunton’s earliest interest in sports medicine. That pursuit later took him to the world’s largest sports events and elevated him among the most respected individuals in his field.

Born in Vancouver, Taunton became one of UBC medicine’s top students while battling dyslexia and knocking off 145km weekly in training runs. He eventually became a nationally ranked marathoner, completing 62 lifetime with a personal best time of 2:25:29. He estimates he has run over 193,000km in his life.

In 1971, Taunton co-founded Lions Gate Road Runners—the first road running club in Canada—as well as the race which grew into today’s BMO Vancouver International Marathon. With wife Cheryl, they began organizing many early road races around Stanley Park, “borrowing” water bottles from the clinic she worked at and using tongue depressors to identify runner placings. When the Tauntons combined forces with Doug and Diane Clement, one of those races—the Lions Gate Eight—grew into the Vancouver Sun Run in 1985, one of the largest timed 10km races in the world with 50,000 participants annually.

Working again with Doug Clement, Taunton co-founded the Allan McGavin Sports Medicine Centre at UBC in 1979, growing from humble beginnings in a trailer behind the university’s hospital to the best sports medicine clinic in Canada. He also co-founded SportMedBC based out of this facility.

Taunton never quite fulfilled his dream of going to the Olympics as an athlete, but ultimately he made Canadian teams in his words “through the backdoor” as a team doctor. In total, he has tended to teams at eight Olympic Games, including chief medical officer for the entire Canadian team at the Sydney 2000 Olympics just five weeks after open heart surgery and then the entire Vancouver 2010 Olympics, the first Games in which the IOC Medical Commission didn’t offer a single complaint.

Along the way, he served at hundreds of other events locally and abroad and on over fifty different provincial, national, and international medical committees relating to sport. He coordinated the medical portion of Rick Hansen’s 1985-87 Man in Motion World Tour, running alongside Hansen for nearly 100km a day across Alberta and part of Saskatchewan. For extended periods he served as team physician for the Vancouver Grizzlies and the Canadian men’s and women’s national field hockey team. He led the founding of the UBC Grand Prix of Cycling event in 2010. The list goes on and on.

Most recently Taunton proved key to the founding of the $64 million Fortius Sport and Health Centre in Burnaby. As Fortius’ medical director, Taunton has created an integrated sports medicine concept which many now consider the centre of Canadian sport and medicine research.

Written and researched by Jason Beck, Curator of the BC Sports Hall of Fame.