Paralympian Peter reflects on his remarkable career

Richard (The Bear) Peter celebrates his Paralympic basketball gold medal with the community during a gathering at the Cowichan Exhibition
Richard (The Bear) Peter celebrates his Paralympic basketball gold medal with the community during a gathering at the Cowichan Exhibition's Mellor Hall Sunday.
— image credit: Don Bodger

Everybody loves Cowichan's Golden Bear.

Richard (The Bear) Peter is clearly a favourite son of the entire community, judging by the response to his homecoming Sunday at the Cowichan Exhibition's Mellor Hall.

The five-time Paralympian, who finished a magnificent career in London, England with his third gold medal in men's wheelchair basketball, is the pride of Cowichan Tribes and the entire valley for the marvelous example he has set for youth.

A whirlwind trip arranged to the valley was a chance for all to celebrate Peter's amazing accomplishments. Family, friends and fans enjoyed a luncheon, traditional mask dance and presentations in Peter's honour.

"To me, he's still a youth but he's also an elder because of the status he's attained,'' said Peter's aunt Philomena Pagaduan. "He has all those teachings now.''

"He accepted what he had and did what he had to do to the best of his ability,'' said Pagaduan's husband Peter Williams.

John and Abby Pavelich of Enderby, Peter's in-laws from his marriage to women's wheelchair basketball great Marni Abbott, have nothing but good things to say about Peter's character.

"His determination and his laid-back attitude,'' John Pavelich said are two things that stand out for him.

"He's quietly aggressive,'' said Abby, who was in London to see Peter win the gold in his final Paralympics. "He's very dedicated to his sport.''

"He deals with young kids,'' added John. "He's a role model for the younger people. He does an awesome job and he seems to really enjoy it.''

Peter takes great pride in being able to pass on his knowledge and wisdom to the younger players and the next generation. He announced before the London games that he would be retiring from competitive basketball and turned 40 on the same day as the closing ceremonies, Sept. 10.

"I guess that still hasn't sunk in,'' said Peter, who is one of three team members to confirm their retirements after playing in five Paralympics. "We definitely really enjoyed it.''

"I'm happy to be home, especially on a day like (Sunday),'' he added. "I'm just sitting back and saying, 'yeah, I'm done.'''

September was a month of milestones for Peter with the Paralympic gold, his 40th birthday, seventh wedding anniversary to Abbott and retirement all falling in short order. He was heading to Las Vegas for a week after the Duncan celebration.

"Everything just sort of fell into place, just really reflecting on my whole career — three gold medals and one silver,'' said Peter. "It's been a good run for us. It's been a lot of fun.''

Mom Gloria, many aunts and uncles and other family members all did their part to make Peter's special day happen.

"It's great for me to come home whenever I can and share with the family,'' said Peter, who has made his permanent home in Vancouver for many years.

Peter knows the Canadian Paralympic basketball team's success will continue without him.

"We've still got a lot of young guys,'' he said.

"I tried to let them know 'you guys get out and enjoy this as much as possible.'''

Peter puts himself in the young players' shoes and recalls what it was like in the beginning in 1996 in Atlanta. He considers himself very fortunate to have enjoyed such a long tenure in the game.

"I just remember going into that first opening ceremonies was unbelievable. It was definitely a joy and experience back then and that's what I try to remember with the younger guys we've got.''

Peter has observed a tremendous advancement in the Paralympic movement during his time.

"It's totally changed with all the different sports and the athletes that are out there.

"The biggest thing is awareness. I didn't know anything about wheelchair sports when I was growing up.''

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