Written by David Grossman
People have shaken their heads in wonderment when watching Markham’s Tracey Ferguson play basketball.
Talented and focused, there’s something about Ferguson’s athleticism and constant determination to excel that is also motivational and inspirational.
For those who haven’t met Ferguson, she isn’t new at playing the game of hoops.
Ferguson has been a member of Canada’s National team for a remarkable 25 years. Just think of it: a quarter of a century, quite rare for a Canadian athlete, in any sport, competing for her country on the international scene. Her accomplishments include an impressive seven Paralympic and World Championship gold medals.
“Wow, 25 years on the National team, guess I’m old, but I just love it,” said Ferguson who, many times has lavished in the joy of being on a podium with officials putting a medal around her neck and the Canadian anthem being played.
“I’m just so grateful to my family and my friends for the positivity and to encourage me to take risks. My mother instilled in me so much confidence to keep challenging and chase my dreams.”
But there is more that has touched the lives of people across the Canada and around the world.
Since playing street hockey as a youngster, Ferguson, like most kids with ambitions and aspirations, wanted to compete for her country at the Olympic level. While it wasn’t on skates, Ferguson proudly wore the Canadian colors on the hardwood – but did so while confined to a wheelchair.
It was prior to her 10th birthday, following surgery to try improve an abnormal curvature of the spine, that Ferguson was left paralyzed. When doctors at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto implanted steel rods to straighten her spine, the surgical procedure left her without movement from the waist down.
Her life went from swimming and riding her bicycle to learning how to navigate in a wheelchair. Not one for sympathetic comments and excuses, Ferguson never wavered and was vigilant and forward thinking.
“As a little kid, and just before my paralysis, I was watching sports and just wanted to win a medal for Canada,” said Ferguson, who was inducted into the Canadian Disability Hall of Fame in 2012. “We have an amazing country, very fortunate and I see that from travelling abroad.”
For Ferguson, it was only a few years after her accident that her mother took her on a trip to Toronto’s Variety Village. Staff assisted her in a basketball chair and that’s when she made up her mind that lifestyle changes wouldn’t prevent her from becoming a remarkable athlete and a role model for people with disabilities wanting to excel in sport.
“Life got a bit crazy for me but playing sports and being active was very important to me,” said Ferguson, one of Canada’s elite high performance athletes. ”I love being challenged. It’s not about winning or losing, but when you put things in perspective, you can learn from losing.”
When she is not with the National team, Ferguson plays professional basketball for a First Division team in Germany. She’s a big believer in trying things and started hand cycling and competed in the Berlin Marathon.
A carded athlete, Ferguson receives a small amount of money from Sport Canada. That’s the same organization she had worked at for more than a decade.
Ferguson graduated with a Degree in Exercise Physiology from the University of Illinois and amidst all her awards, from the Terry Fox Humanitarian Award to the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, is something special: an honorary athletic letter presented to her at the Grade 8 graduation from Markham’s Reesor Park Public School.