#44: Ron Minor

Written by Dr. Robert D. Steadward

Ron Minor’s community contributions go beyond the ‘traditional volunteer’.   I would consider Ron as more of a ‘trail blazer’, someone who broke down barriers, perceptions and created new realities for people with mobility issues.

He contracted poliomyelitis at the age of two and spent many years in the hospital. However, he loved sport and looked for opportunities to be involved during the sixties and seventies when the opportunities for those using a wheelchair were limited. Not much, if anything stopped Ron.

“A lot of times, disabled people are just thrown in a closet,” Ron was quoted in a media story.   “If they did more things, they would be more visible, and more socially acceptable.”

“Most people do not know how to react to a person with a disability because they have not been around them enough.”  He added.

The story goes on to say, “victimized by polio at the age of two, Minor will never walk again.   But, he said, his wheelchair has not restricted his lifestyle.   “I have done everything anybody else has, and maybe even more” he said.  Also indicated in his media story is that “The 290 kilometer Edmonton trip was Minor’s most ambitious venture.”   The story went on to say that he planned on covering 70 Km a day at an average speed of 10 km/hour.   It sounds like an ambitious pace but a group of high school runners who accompanied Minor on the first leg journey have little double that he can maintain it.”

The story was ended with the following “Minor covered the first five kilometers – much of it uphill – in excess of 12 km/h.   The pace left most of the support runners gasping for breath but Minor just kept rolling.”

In Edmonton, he was pivotal to the accessibility movement and did this by participating and encouraging the participation of others.  

In 1979, the Edmonton Sports Reporters Association decided to divide the Sportsman of the Year into two categories and named Gretzky the top professional athlete of 1979 and Ron Minor the top amateur athlete.    According to the newspaper article “Minor was also named the Outstanding Male Athlete at the National Wheelchair Games in 1978 and 79.  In 1977, he won the 127 pound class in both the Canadian and International Arm Wrestling Championships.  His most notable early achievements came in 1978 when he established world records of two minutes, 38.2 seconds for 800 meters and 4:52:6 for 1500 meters at the Para Pan American Games.  The latter time made him one of the first wheelchair athletes to break the five minute barrier.  As a result, he was invited to the Von Damme Memorial Track meet in Belgium, when he finished third, racing on a flat tire, in the 800 meters – before 60,000 spectators.   

Ron was inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame in 1980 where his biography best describes his achievement:

Ron Minor started his winning ways in wheelchair sports in 1975.   Wheelchair basketball, swimming, weight-lifting, and track and field have all held his attention.  In 1976, he won silver and bronze medals in the Canadian National Championships, improving the next year to win a gold, three silvers, and four bronze medals.   He claimed six track and field gold medals and a silver medal in basketball at the 1978 Nationals.   While competing at the 1978 Pan American Games, he won three golds, establishing World records in the 800 m and 1500 m races.   In 1979, Ron Minor won a total of five gold and six silver medals at National Games and at Stoke Mandeville in England.

Since his induction in 1980 Ron moved on to further success:

  • 1976 Toronto Paralympics – Athletics (1500 m), and Swimming (50 m Backstroke)
  • 1980 Arnhem Paralympics – Athletics (100m, 800m, 1500m and 4 x 100 m Relay)
  • 1984 New York/Stoke Mandeville Paralympics – National Wheelchair Basketball Team
  • 1988 Seoul Paralympics – National Wheelchair Basketball Team
  • 1992 Barcelona Paralympics – National Wheelchair Basketball Team
  • 1996 Wheelchair Basketball Canada induction – Hall of Fame – Athlete
  • 2005 – NWBA Championship Title
  • 2008 Alberta Sports Hall of Fame induction for the 2nd time – 2004 – 05 Alberta Northern Lights Basketball team.

Ron Minor is truly one of Canada’s iconic athletes. He was a multi-sport athlete, competing in track & field, swimming and wheelchair basketball at the national and world levels. It is truly an honor for CWSA to recognize his outstanding athletic, role model and leadership achievements over a distinguished lifetime of commitment to people with a disability.