Douglas “Doug” J. Grant was born in Portage La Prairie, Manitoba in 1962 and raised in Winnipeg. As a young man, he was very athletic, participating in both hockey and lacrosse. In 1981, Doug was injured in a car accident and became a quadriplegic. True to his competitive spirit, he quickly became involved with the Manitoba Wheelchair Sports Association (MWSA) by playing wheelchair rugby during his rehabilitation. He would go on to represent Team Manitoba at the 1983 Wheelchair Rugby Canadian Championship.
As wheelchair rugby was a fall/winter sport, Doug wanted to do something athletic in the summer. With road racing becoming increasingly popular in the 80’s, primarily due to Rick Hansen’s influence, Doug was eager to try it out.
While road racing up to this point, had always been a sport for paraplegics, Doug, and his friend, Alex McLain were convinced that quadriplegics could also compete in road racing. They looked to MWSA for funding, that would allow them to compete at a race in the Detroit Marathon, but their request was turned down. As a result, they decided to instead travel to North Dakota and compete in a half marathon, to prove that they could be competitive in road racing. They were successful with the half marathon, received their desired funding from MWSA and headed down to Detroit to compete in the marathon. They went to successfully complete the marathon and their love of road racing and marathons began.
Their next big challenge was the Orange Bowl Marathon in Miami, on the third week of January. Once again they faced resistance from MWSA, who was hesitant to have a pair of quadriplegic athletes compete in the intense heat of southern Florida. It was one thing to race in Canada or northern US, but another thing altogether to race in the intense heat of Miami. To prepare and prove that they could safely compete in the marathon, Doug and Alex strapped on heart rate monitors while their trainer biked alongside and monitored them. Every hour they had to replace the batteries in the monitors. Following these tests, the MWSA began to take them more seriously, and once again, approved them for funding.
Doug Grant (second from left) at the Nabob Canadian Wheelchair Marathon Championship
With this new awareness, quadriplegics started to receive more inclusion in programs and therefore, more funding. In the fall of 1985, Doug and Alex went to Japan for the half-marathon. The involvement of quadriplegics was being taken more seriously by this time. Doug’s intensity and dedication to his training program set a great example for future wheelchair athletes.
In 1987, Doug won the World Championship Marathon in Osaka, Japan.
In 1988, Doug accepted the position of Technical Director with MWSA and was promoted to Executive Director in 1990. His passion for sports motivated all of those who were involved in wheelchair sport and he was extremely well respected in his position as Executive Director. He was supportive of all sports, never treating one sport as more important than another, always had time to spend with the members and worked very hard to provide as many opportunities as possible to the athletes.
Tragically, Doug died accidentally while bike riding in 2001 near his home in Lorette, Manitoba.
He is remembered by those who worked closely and trained with him as a character, a jokester who had a quick sense of humor, and a man who had endless generosity, which endeared him to all who knew him. Doug was a “great guy”, who dedicated his life to growing wheelchair sports.
Doug Grant (left) practicing Wheelchair Rugby
Written by Jared Funk
When I first got injured, my biggest fear was that I would never play sports again. Having been one of the top volleyball players in the province to a quadriplegic, it was quite a shock to the system. To lie there on the bed, however, and think that I could never play sports again, that was even harder for me to accept.
Then one day at the hospital, this gentleman came up to me and said “hey, you played sports before, would you like to play again”. It blew me away. He wanted me to come down to the local university to check out these guys playing wheelchair Rugby. That was how I met Doug Grant for the first time.
From that day forward, Doug helped me grow in the sport by constantly challenging me. During my second ever wheelchair rugby practice, he pointed me and said “that guy's going to be on Team Canada”. At that point, I made it my goal to do just that. Rugby had become my life.
The sport would eventually open many up many opportunities for myself and I honestly wouldn’t know where I’d be right now, if Doug hadn’t come up to me and asked me to try the sport.
Doug was a great friend on and off the court, and he will be missed. He truly left a legacy in Manitoba that will not be forgotten.