#38: Clayton Gerein

Written by Saskatchewan Wheelchair Sports Association

Clayton Gerein began his wheelchair sports career in 1982 after sustaining a severe neck injury while training horses. He was introduced to Swimming and Rugby early in his career, but soon found his interests moving towards Athletics.

He competed at the 1984 World Wheelchair Games (the predecessor to the Paralympics) as a swimmer, followed by Athletics’ career that included 15 medals at Paralympic Games from 1988 – 2006. Throughout his athletic career he broke and re-broke numerous Canadian and World records in distances from 800 meters to the marathon.

Clayton has been awarded the Sask Sport Athlete of the Year in 2001, 1996, & 1987

Clayton received the Commemorative Medal of the 125th Anniversary of Canadian Confederation for his significant contribution to Canada.  Clayton was awarded the Dr. Robert W. Jackson Award in 2010 for his years of dedication and contribution to  Wheelchair Sports. Clayton was inducted into the Saskatchewan Hall of Fame and the Canadian Paralympic Hall of Fame in 2011.

Clayton Gerein passed away in 2010, Saskatchewan Wheelchair Sports Association initiated a Legacy Fund in his name.

Clayton Gerein
Clayton Gerein trains for the 2004 Paralympic Games

The Clayton Gerein Legacy Fund was established to provide financial assistance to future Paralympians involved in wheelchair sports. Assistance will help athletes following in Clayton’s athletic tracks attain equipment, training, coaching, and competition needs. Clayton’s legacy is much bigger than just these funds. He introduced sport to many people with a physical disability and helped jump start the athletic careers of several local athletes Including Lisa Franks and Miranda Biletski.

Written by Miranda Biletski

I was asked to write a piece on Clayton Gerein for the 70-50-40 celebration. I’ll be honest, it felt a little daunting at first. How could I possibly do justice to a once in a lifetime mentor and friend?

It would be really easy to talk about all of Clay’s accolades. He was a multi-sport Paralympian that had a career that spanned 7 Paralympic Games. Although, if you asked him he would probably say 6 because he was a little embarrassed about his swimming career. Clay won 15 Paralympic medals and broke more World Records than you could count.

That’s what made Clay so special. If you were lucky enough to have met or known him, the results weren’t what mattered. He used his platform to help others and was so incredibly modest for all the success he had. Although we lost Clay in 2010 his legacy is still felt stronger than ever and will continue for many years to come. Whether it’s the athletes he mentored to greatness, the newly injured individuals he encouraged to achieve anything, or his work in breaking down social barriers, Clay’s presence is felt daily and he inspired an entire generation.

At the end of the day Clay’s greatest accomplishment was his daughters. It was an honour to watch Jasmine and Zoe grow up into the accomplished and compassionate young women they are today. They continue to follow in their father’s footsteps by sitting on the committee for the Clayton Gerein Legacy Fund. The fund was created to help athletes with the costs of specialized equipment, travel, and training. I don’t think any of us will ever be able to fill Clay’s shoes, but I like to think somewhere he’s smiling, knowing all of these athletes are being supported thanks to his work.

Clayton Gerein competing in Wheelchair Rugby in 2008

I have numerous stories I could tell you about Clay that could make you laugh until you pee your pants. Unfortunately, most of those stories aren’t appropriate to share! One of my all-time favourites was the creation of the “Green Machine”. Back in 2007 Regina was hosting its first rugby tournament in a number of years.  Clay was determined to play in his old rugby chair from the glory days. It was this little Top End chair that I am positive was from the late 80’s or early 90’s. So we figured it needed a fresh paint job. Off we go to get some cans of the most hideous lime green spray paint. We set up in my mom’s backyard, wearing garbage bags to keep our clothes clean, and take on the task of painting this chair. The finished product did not look good. The tournament rolls around and  I kid you not, every time someone hit Clay a little bit of rust fell off of the “Green Machine”. A few months later the frame snapped in half and we had to get Clay a real rugby chair.

I know, personally, I would not be a Paralympic athlete if it was not for Clay. He would not allow me to feel sorry for myself after my injury and he opened my eyes to all the possibilities of things I could achieve. I think about my friend often. He still brings a smile to my face. Some days I feel robbed that he was in my life for such a short amount of time, but I will always be grateful for the 4 years of mentorship and support. If I can be a tenth of the person Clay was, I know I will have made a difference in some people’s lives.

If you read this I hope it inspires you to use your platform to help others. Because at the end of the day all of your achievements aren’t what matters, its how you made people feel.