On today’s date in 1987, Rick Hansen, of Williams Lake, B.C., accomplished the first world tour by wheelchair, ending his Man in Motion saga after 792 days, 467 of which were spent on the road. He raised $26 million for spinal cord research and the disabled, pumping his wheelchair 3,600 times an hour for 26 months as he travelled 40,000 kilometres through 34 countries and wore out 117 tires and 11 pairs of gloves.
In 2012, the Royal Canadian Mint commemorated Hansen on a $5 Fine silver coin to mark the 25th anniversary of his Man in Motion tour. The majority of the coin’s field is filled with finely engraved lines that visually represent the new paths Hansen laid to cut through limiting perceptions of physical disability and his key principles: “journey, inspire, dream, together, involvement,” and, of course, “anything is possible.” With a limited mintage of 7,500, the coin has a weight of 23.17 grams and a diameter of 36.07 mm.
In 1980, fellow British Columbian athlete Terry Fox, who had recently lost his leg to bone cancer, undertook the Marathon of Hope with the intention of running across Canada – from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island – to raise awareness for cancer research. Fox made it from St. John’s, Nfld. to Thunder Bay, Ont. before his cancer returned, forcing him to stop about halfway through his journey.
Inspired by Fox’s courage, Hansen decided to undertake a similar journey for spinal cord injury research; however, his plan was far more ambitious – he wanted to cross the world in his wheelchair. He embarked on his Man in Motion world tour on March 21, 1985 from Vancouver’s Oakridge Mall and quickly attracted international media attention as he progressed on his 26-month voyage. He returned to Vancouver’s BC Place Stadium on May 22, 1987, raising $26 million for spinal cord research and quality of life initiatives.
Like Fox, Hansen is considered an international hero.