Incorporated in 1977 as a non-profit organization, SWSA assisted individuals in their pursuit of athletic endeavours. With the perseverance of founders Ruth Adelia, Ernie Blanchette, and Gary Zawada, SWSA opened many doors and opportunities for individuals with physical disabilities to make their mark in the sporting world.
Many of the early events were combined into multi sport games or festivals, pitting one province against the other in events such as archery, murderball, tennis, swimming, snooker, track & field, shooting, and weight lifting. These games were generally held every 2 years and were wedged in between World Championships and what would become Paralympic Games. Over time, many of the sports became inclusionary sports within the able bodied competition schedule. Track & Field fell under the umbrella of Athletics Canada, tennis moved into Tennis Canada’s system, swimming, weightlifting, table tennis, and shooting followed suit. Basketball took a transitional step, first as Canadian Wheelchair Basketball Association, working closely with Basketball Canada and then to the current Wheelchair Basketball Canada (WBC), acting as a standalone sport. Throughout, wheelchair basketball has maintained a separate National Championship each year and expanded with a club level championship for the Canadian Wheelchair Basketball League, a Women’s Division National Championship, and a Junior National Championship that Saskatchewan teams have medalled at. When Murderball underwent a name change to Wheelchair Rugby, it also moved to a separate National Championship format. Team Saskatchewan, known as Sask Squash, maintained a five year winning streak in the late 80’s-early 90’s, with players such as former national team players, Mike Bacon, Daryl Stubel, and Al Semenuik, along with former national team racers Clayton Gerein and Rick Reelie.
Success by our athletes has also come off the sports fields and gymnasiums. Former shooters, Richard Schell and Heather Kuttai, former racers Clayton Gerein and Rick Reelie, and multi sport athlete, Leroy Coates are all members of the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame. Many of these athletes were also inducted into their local Sports Hall of Fames as well. Multi Paralympic medal winning athlete, Colette Bourgonje, was awarded the Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award for outstanding achievements as an athlete and her promotion of her sport of Para Nordic skiing. Lisa Franks, dual Sport Paralympian in athletics and basketball was given a honorary law degree from the University of Regina for her outstanding efforts as a racer, basketball player, and mentor. All of these SWSA members have opened doors for newer athletes in their respective sports; many have gone on to share their knowledge as coaches and mentors as well.
Whether it was a Richard Schell in shooting, an Ernie Blanchette or Stan Holcomb in basketball, a Len Borbley in rugby, a Rick Oak or Danny Musgrove in tennis, or a Clayton Gerein or Leroy Coates in Athletics, all winning at various levels in their sport, often multiple sports, leave behind a legacy for others to challenge themselves. The builders and volunteers that helped develop our sport within the province and provided opportunities for our members created what has become one of the most successful sport programs in the country. Thirty five years ago, SWSA was created, thirty five years from now, who knows where it will lead us.