Over a 40-year journey, Kathy Newman’s focus was to make a difference in the BC wheelchair sports community. You could say she’s done that and more. Today the BC Wheelchair Sports Association enjoys a leading reputation worldwide.
Her passion for wheelchair sports began in 1981 when Kathy, then president of the Langley Mustangs Track and Field Club, invited young wheelchair athletes like Rick Hansen and Daniel Wesley to compete at the club’s annual track meet, one of the first in BC and Canada where athletes with a disability were able to participate in an inclusive environment. The BC Wheelchair Sports Association brought her on shortly after and by 1987 she was the organization’s executive director, a position she held for 25 years.
In that time, Kathy worked tirelessly to increase awareness of wheelchair sport. She mentored a generation of para-sport administrators and programmers. She developed the Bridging the Gap and Wheelchair Loan programs, as well as ‘Have a Go’ Days that encouraged individuals who had been recently injured to try participating in sport. Many lives were changed through these programs, encouraging countless people with disabilities to lead active lives and showing what is possible. BC athletes like Hansen, Richard Peter, Marni Abbott, and Garett Hickling have become household names today. Kathy was there for them from the beginning, helping propel them forward until they reached historic heights.
“I like a project and a challenge and I’m usually able to deliver,” she summed up. “A lot of what we’ve done is groundbreaking and very innovative. I’m very proud of the staff and athletes we’ve worked with.”
Perhaps her most impressive contribution has been in the successful hosting of world-class international events. Kathy led bids and then organized the 2009 Americas Cup Wheelchair Basketball tournament, the 2010 World Wheelchair Rugby Championships, and, beginning in 2004, over 15 Canada Cup International Wheelchair Rugby tournaments, all held in Richmond. Other events include the 2011 U25 Women’s World Wheelchair Basketball Championship held in St. Catharines and the 2014 Women’s World Wheelchair Basketball Championship and the 2017 U23 Men’s World Wheelchair Basketball Championship, both held in Toronto. And just recently you can add to that list the 2026 IWBF Wheelchair Basketball World Championships for both men and women together in Ottawa—another first for Canada.
“Hosting events is a platform to do so much more than simply delivering an event,” she said. “Whether it’s broadening awareness, developing partnerships, training volunteers, improving your reputation—there’s so many legacies that come out of event hosting. It’s extraordinary.”
A pioneering world leader, Kathy did all of this in her characteristic quiet, understated way, happily leading from the background. But rarely has there been a more devoted advocate for Para athletes. If she saw a policy, procedure, or situation that wasn’t fair, she was there to fight it and right it, firmly and fairly.
Written and researched by Jason Beck, Curator of the BC Sports Hall of Fame.
To read more on the career of Kathy Newman, please see the March 2020 Curator’s Corner article here: https://bcsportshall.com/curator-corner/kathy-newman-quietly-leading-the-way-2020-inductee-spotlight/