Byron Green’s dream of one day competing at the Olympics on a mountain bike turned into the reality of competing at the Games in wheelchair rugby – an inspiring journey that was recognized Tuesday night at the Comox Valley Sports Centre.
Green, whose wheelchair rugby accomplishments most recently include a fourth-place finish at the 2016 Rio Olympics with Team Canada, was welcomed to the Comox Valley Walk of Achievement and had his name put on a plaque with a list of all local Olympians and Paralympians.
The plaque will hang in the Sports Centre lobby.
The event was MCed by John Carswell, Green’s father-in-law, and was attended by many former coaches, teachers, friends and family. One of several speakers was Green’s former teacher, neighbour and friend Ron Jackson, who Carswell assured that Green was from north-east Merville – “Just so you don’t think he’s from central Merville,” Carswell quipped.
Jackson, who has known Green since the latter was in kindergarten, remembers him as “a gentle, unassuming and playful boy.”
Jackson coached Green in soccer for several years, and described him as a very co-operative player and super team player. An accomplished skier and excellent mountain biker (where he suffered the accident that put him in a wheelchair), Jackson said, “I understand it was his dream one day to compete in the Olympics in (mountain biking).
“The saying is when one door closes another door opens. And for many, an accident like Byron’s would result in closing the door. But Byron opened many doors. Not only wheelchair rugby but also an engineering career and a wonderful marriage.
“Speaking of his wife Alana, who was his high school sweetheart (at G.P. Vanier, where Carswell once taught and coached), she has supported him 110 per cent, and been his strength and inspiration immediately after the accident, during his rehabilitation and everything else he has done since. ”
A year after his accident, when Green returned to Vanier to finish Grade 12, Jackson was blown away by his dedication and work ethic.
“Except for the wheelchair you would never know he had a disability,” said Jackson, adding Green never used his disability as an excuse.
The thoughtfulness and kindness Green shows by visiting injured athletes in the hospital and recruiting new players to his sport is ever-evident off the court.
“(But) once he hits the rugby floor his gentleness is replaced by a toughness and inner strength that is so valuable to the team.
“Byron, when you were five years old I never would have believed that one day your nickname would be ‘Mean, Mean’ Byron Green,” Jackson joked.
In an emotional speech at the end of the presentations (which included a video of Canada’s gold medal win over the U.S. in the 2015 Parapan Games in Toronto that drew gasps from the spectators when they saw the force of the hits in the sport), Green thanked everyone for coming out.
“It takes a village to raise a child, and to look at all those names on (the plaque) of Olympians and Paralympians from the Comox Valley… it is an amazing place to grow up. It definitely shaped who I am today and I couldn’t be more thankful to be from the Valley.
“To all my friends and family I couldn’t have got to where I am today without so much support from you guys,” Green said, adding special thanks to his wife Alana.