By Vincent Schilling, TODAY CORRESPONDENT
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Indian Country Today spoke with Richard Peter, Cowichan, Aboriginal Canadian Wheelchair Basketball Association basketball player. Peter spoke from his hotel room in Beijing after a long day of sightseeing. He was resting for the night and preparing himself for the 2008 paralympic games being held in Beijing.
Injured in a bus accident at the age of four, Richard found himself in a wheelchair. Undaunted by his circumstances, Richard embraced his life;s situation and still climbed the ladder to athletic success. To date, Richard has won 18 international medals and 13 national medals in wheelchair basketball.
Indian Country Today: How was your life affected at four years old?
Richard Peter: I really didn't realize it was a disability back then. A lot of people treat you differently. Living in a very small town about 20 years ago with a disability was tough. Things were not as wheelchair accessible as they are nowadays. It was a little harder to go to school, even in my family a lot of my uncles and aunts had stairs.
ICT: You were born in Duncan, British Columbia?
Peter: Yes, on Vancouver Island, I was born and grew up on the reservation with the Cowichan tribe.
ICT: When did you first become introduced to wheelchair basketball?
Peter: When I was about 14 or 15 years old, a wheelchair basketball demo team came to my school. They introduced me to wheelchair sports. That was the first time I had ever seen it. I didn't want to go. I didn't want to check it out, but they dragged me out there to try wheelchair basketball. I tried it and decided that was the sport for me.
ICT: Within seven years after being introduced to wheelchair basketball, you made Canada's national team, that's quite an accomplishment.
Peter: It was really good, because at the time I had the national team coach in B.C. I was able to train and learn a lot of stuff from him.
ICT: In 2000, you attended the Paralympic Summer games in Sydney, Australia and won a gold medal. Then you received the Tom Longboat national award for aboriginal male athlete of the year. How did you feel about those honors?
Peter: It was great to win a gold medal at the Paralympic games. That is one of the top moments of my life so far. And then to come back and be acknowledged by your peers and everybody from back home, that was great to come back home to that. That was definitely a good year.
ICT: Then you also won the gold medal at the Paralympic Games in Athens in 2004.
Peter: Well, it's definitely a team game. I'm not the only one that deserves the award.
ICT: Then as part of team B.C. you helped your team claim the gold medal at the 2007 and 2008 national championships. You were also named the 2007-08 CWBA male player of the year.
Peter: Last year was quite a good year for me also. I got a few awards here and there, (laughs good-naturedly.)
ICT: You were also asked to become a member of Team Visa.
Peter: It was something that definitely helped me out. I applied like many other athletes around the country. They took me on and helped sponsor me. I was able to get out there and train and get the equipment that I needed. They helped me financially, so I don't have to work as much and can focus on playing sports.
ICT: What do you expect out of the games in Beijing?
Peter: Canada is one of the top ranked teams, however, when we were qualifying the American team beat us. So we are going to have to get back in and see what happens. We are going to have to stay focused every game.
ICT: How do you feel being an aboriginal?
Peter: I'm one of the few - and it's always been a good challenge for me. I want to represent Canada and my tribe back home the best way that I can. I want to make sure I am keeping up their name and honor.
ICT: Your personal motto is ''You're not always here for a long time, so make it a good time.''
Peter: Yeah, my wife always bugs me about that one. (laughs) I'm always out here having a lot of fun, no matter whether we are winning or losing.