Edmonton (Alberta)



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Edmonton (Alberta)

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Edmonton (Alberta)

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Edmonton (Alberta)

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Robert Steadward

  • MRUASC-AR0074
  • Person
  • 1946-

Robert Steadward is a professor, sports scientist, author, coach, community leader, and was the founding President of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC). Steadward was born on May 26, 1946 in Eston, Saskatchewan to Danny and Irene Steadward. Steadward studied Dentistry at the University of Alberta before switching fields to earn a bachelor degree from the Faculty of Physical Education at the University of Alberta. He went on to earn a master's degree in Physical Education from the University of Alberta, and a PhD from the University of Oregon.

Steadward began working with disabled athletes and adaptive sports in 1960 when he coached the Edmonton Handicaddies, a wheelchair basketball club. Steadward went on to coach basketball, swim, and track teams for the Paralympic Sports Association, and coached the Canadian national team at the 1972 Paralympic Games, 1973 International Stoke Mandeville Games, and the Jamaican Pan-American Games. He was also responsible for organizing the Canadian team during the 1976 Olympics for the Physically Disabled. Steadward served as President of the Alberta Wheelchair Sports Association from 1971-1975, was the founding president and chairman of the Canadian Sports Fund for the Physically Disabled (1979-1989), and has served in various roles with the Canadian Paralympic Committee, including coach, chef de mission, national governor, treasurer, and president.

His involvement in organizing competitive sporting events for athletes with disabilities began in 1968 with the development of the first Canadian national championships for wheelchair sports, which was held in Edmonton. He became interested in establishing a central organization responsible for the international development of sport opportunities and competitions for disabled athletes after attending the Olympics for the Physically Disabled in Arnhem, Netherlands in 1980. Previous to the foundation of the International Paralympic Committee, Paralympics Games were run by a conglomeration of four different organizations: the International Sport Organization for the Disabled (ISOD), the International Stoke Mandeville Games Federation (ISMGF), the International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA), and the Cerebral Palsy International Sports and Recreation Association (CP ISRA). Working with the Canadian Federation of Sport Organizations for the Disabled (CFSOD), Steadward aimed to develop a new centralized democratic model for disabled sport. Throughout the 1980s Steadward forged relationships with various disability sports organizations and sought support for the formation of a single organization to represent disabled athletes at the highest level of competition. Finally, in 1989 the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) was formed with Steadward as the first President.

One of Steadward's goals for the IPC was to pursue recognition from, and eventual integration with, the International Olympic Committee (IOC). As a result of Steadward's communications with the IOC, demonstration events for athletes with disabilities started being included in the Olympics, and some competitions, such as the 2002 Commonwealth Games, started to fully integrated events for people with disabilities into their sporting program. Other IPC successes under Steadward's leadership include: developing the organizational and committee structure for the IPC, growing IPC membership to include 172 nations, and formally connecting the IPC and IOC with a memorandum of understanding in 2000. Steadward then stepped down as President and became Honorary President for Life in 2001.

Regarding his academic career, Steadward joined the faculty of the University of Alberta in 1970, specializing in exercise physiology, anatomy, and athletic injuries. Steadward founded the Research and Training Centre for the Physically Disabled at the University of Alberta (now known as the Steadward Centre for Personal & Physical Achievement) in 1978. The center became a multi-disability fitness, research, and lifestyle center that continues to be internationally recognized as a model in the field of independent fitness training for people with disabilities. Steadward retired from the University of Alberta in 2001 and was later named Professor Emeritus.

Steadward is the author of over 150 publications and has delivered over 300 speeches and presentations. He was also responsible for creating Vista '93, a disability sport conference that brought together over 160 sports experts and laid the foundations for the ensuing Paralympic Congresses. Steadward has been recognized as a pioneer in the field of disability sport and has received numerous honours and awards celebrating his contributions and achievements including: Alberta Sports Hall of Fame (1984), Order of Canada - Officer (1999), Terr Fox Hall of Fame (2002), Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal (2002), Edmontonian of the Century (2004), Canada's Sport Hall of Fame (2007), Alberta Order of Excellence (2010), and Order of Canada - Companion (2020).