Irene Van Eeno

Irene Van Eenoo

Portrait by Robert Howson

At its best, sports can bring out the best in a person.

In 1977, Irene Van Eenoo was injured in a devastating accident, leaving her a paraplegic. While others might have seen that as the end of an athletic life, Van Eenoo was only beginning. In her healing process, she used her athletic abilities and staunch determination to make the disaster into a beginning. As part of her rehabilitation, she became a swimmer and a wheelchair basketball player.

Just 10 years after that accident, she became the first paraplegic to earn the Bronze Cross in Canada, qualifying her to become a lifeguard.

Five years later – in Spain at the 1992 Para Olympics, she was on the podium with a gold medal around her neck as a member of the Canadian Wheelchair basketball team.

A succession of other honors followed, Guelph Chamber of Commerce’s Outstanding Citizen Award in Sports, the Ontario government achievement award for Excellence in Sports and the Canadian government Achievement Award for Excellence in Sports.

In 1996, she was given the Clarke Institute Courage to Come Back Award.

Her work continues. She is a wheelchair manager and coach, a personal trainer and a motivational speaker on the value of fitness training for the disabled.

Inducted into the Guelph Sports Hall of Fame – Athlete category – in 2007