Column: Heroism resonates with Hansen

We refer to athletes who score a winning goal as heroes but to make such a claim is nonsense.

hero – 1. a person distinguished by courage, noble deeds, outstanding accomplishments, etc. (i.e. Terry Fox became a national hero)

– source, Canadian Oxford dictionary

 

The term hero is often thrown around loosely.

We refer to athletes who score a winning goal or otherwise lead their team to a championship as heroes, even though in the grander sense of the word, to make such a claim is nonsense.

Wayne Gretzky, who many Canadians believe is the best hockey player ever to lace up a pair of skates, is iconic in this country – he was an obvious choice to light the Olympic torch to open the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver – but is he heroic?

One could argue that since his accomplishments, unparalleled in his sport, prompted fans and non-hockey watchers alike to shower him with kudos and respect, that yes, he qualifies as a hero. But if one were to compare his actions to, say, those of a longtime dedicated humanitarian, or a soldier who saved the lives of many trenchmates in wartime and helped lead his side to victory, it might be a different story.

Truth is, we have many types of hero in our society, and they serve a valuable purpose, each for different reasons. The dictionary definition allows for a fairly broad interpretation.

It seems for most people, the question of respect is a key determining factor when considering a person’s hero status, whether that occurs long after their deeds are done or while they are still actively involved in their chosen field.

Former wheelchair athlete Rick Hansen’s Man in Motion world fundraising tour for spinal cord research in the mid-1980s captured the attention of the world, especially here in his home country.

Hansen, like the aforementioned Terry Fox, was initially christened an international hero for his Herculean efforts wheeling himself around the globe in a wheelchair. Never mind the fact that he won three gold medals, two silver and a bronze between two Paralympic Games before tackling the fundraising mission for spinal cord research.

He remains a national hero in many people’s eyes – he received a huge ovation in B.C. Place as one of the final carriers of the Olympic Torch – because he continues to put others before himself, by spearheading further fundraising efforts and channelling people’s energy for the greater good, much like he did during the original Man in Motion world tour.

Hansen was in Greater Victoria this week, as part of his Rick Hansen Relay cross-Canada tour. While some of the folks who received his special Difference Maker awards in Victoria, Esquimalt and Oak Bay weren’t born at the time of the original Man in Motion, all were no doubt thrilled to be recognized by someone whose light shines in the same way Terry Fox’s did three decades ago.

Hansen, never known to turn down an interview or an opportunity to give an autograph to someone who he thinks it might make a difference for, is the ultimate diplomat for what it means to be Canadian, and what it means to overcome a potentially devastating disability.

He understands, at 54, that his role has changed from those days when his ripped upper body pounded through kilometre after kilometre.

As a man who exudes grace and class as he extends his hands to help, he is definitely a good example of a true Canadian hero.

Don Descoteau is the editor of the Victoria News.

editor@vicnews.com

Just Posted

Cycslists were all smiles during ninth Tour de Victoria

More than 2,100 cyclists participated

‘I’m just absolutely disgusted’: Husband furious after Const. Beckett’s killer gets day parole

Kenneth Fenton was sentenced to prison after he fatally struck Const. Sarah Beckett’s cruiser

Police investigating incident in Saanich neighbourhood

Neighbours tell Black Press Media that a body has been found, but police remain tight-lipped.

Langford lizard sighting excites Victoria museum curator

Curator of vertebrate zoology/knowledge explains the spread of the Wall lizard in the region

Colwood man takes on Ride to Conquer Cancer for 11th year in a row

Team Finn has raised almost $3 million for BC Cancer Foundation

VIDEO: Langley Ribfest met with protesters

Groups that oppose the event for various reasons plan to be on site each of the three days.

Canadians killed in Afghanistan honoured during emotional dedication ceremony

One-hundred-fifty-eight Canadian soldiers died during the mission

It’s snow joke: Up to 30 cm of snow expected to fall in northeastern B.C.

Alaska Highway, Fort Nelson to be hit with August snowstorm, according to Environment Canada

Sea-to-Sky Gondola in B.C. likely out of commission until 2020

Sea to Sky Gondola carries between 1,500 and 3,000 people every day during the summer season

Helicopter-riding dog Mr. Bentley now featured on cans of new B.C.-made beer

Partial proceeds from every pack go to Children’s Wish

PHOTOS: Weapons seized at Portland right-wing rally, counterprotests

Not all who gathered Saturday were with right-wing groups or antifa

Ferries employees participating in Denman Island cleanup for plastic-shedding ferry

The cleanup comes a few weeks after one organized by residents of the Island

Discussion on grief and loss between Stephen Colbert, Anderson Cooper goes viral

The exchange includes emotional question from Cooper, and outlook on grief as a child

Toronto activist calling on federal parties to nominate more black candidates

Fewer than 20 black Canadians have been nominated so far, including some Liberal MPs seeking re-election

Most Read