Written by Laurel Crosby
Reg McClellan’s career as a competitive wheelchair athlete first began with the 1976 Toronto Paralympics where he competed in billiards, snooker and table tennis. However, wheelchair basketball was always his real love and has been in Reg’s blood, since he first began to play in Alberta in 1973. Reg was instrumental in the creation of the Alberta Northern Lights Wheelchair Basketball program, which was founded in 1976 and was one of the most successful wheelchair basketball club programs in the country. Reg played with the Northern Lights from 1976 to 1988 and acted as their General Manager from 1987-1988.
Reg was a member of the Canadian Men’s National Team for 20 years. He played on six World Cup Wheelchair Basketball Championship teams, four Paralympic teams and was the team’s Most Valuable Player ten times. A career highlight for Reg was winning the silver medal for Canada at the Wheelchair Basketball World Championships in Melbourne, Australia in 1986, while filling the role of player-coach.
Reg was also interested in the coaching aspect of wheelchair basketball. He coached the Alberta Northern Lights to their first National Championship victory and coached the Canadian National team from 1983-1986.
In 1988, Reg turned his interest to sports administration, taking over the position of Executive Director for the Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association (CWSA), where he remained until 1994. Following his term with the CWSA, he moved to the Canadian Wheelchair Basketball Association where he served as Executive Director from 1994-1999. During this time, he also held the position of President of the IWBF Development Commission, serving a term from 1989-1998.
Reg McLellan (left) and Leroy Coates (right) at the 1974 Stoke Mandeville Games
Reg was inducted into the Canadian Wheelchair Basketball Hall of Fame in 1996 and was the first Canadian athlete to be inducted into the National Wheelchair Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.
Recognizing that there was a need to move from the cumbersome, folding stainless steel wheelchairs to more light weight and streamlined rigid frame sport chairs, Reg founded his original company in 1979, called RGK Wheelchairs and began importing rigid frame chairs to North America.
In 2002, Reg made the decision to change of the name of this company to 49 Bespoke. The significance behind the change is that the “4” represents Reg’s privilege to have worn the number 4 for over 20 years on the men’s national wheelchair basketball team. The “9” represents a similar honour his partner Chantal Benoit shares, having worn the number 9 on the women’s national team for 27 years.
Reg continues to be a strong advocate and supporter of wheelchair sports and loves the fact that so many games/events are televised and/or streamed over the internet, demonstrating the tremendous growth and development of sport for athletes with disabilities, over the years.