Nairn Mckenna will be thinking about his lifelong friend with every push on Friday at the Richmond Olympic Oval.
Mckeena and others will be paying tribute to Ian Chan by sitting in a wheelchair for the first time to participate in the second annual Push4Impact — a wheelchair rugby fundraising event for the B.C. Wheelchair Sports Association.
Chan passed away suddenly in March at the age of 41.
The popular Richmond native enjoyed a decorated career in wheelchair rugby as a five-time Paralympian and world champion — earning numerous individual awards along the way.
“This was actually his idea,” explained McKenna, who grew up with Chan in Steveston together. “Months ago he sent some of us a link for this event and wanted us to participate.
“He was such a huge personality and a motivational sort of person that we wanted to make sure we did something to remember him. (A golf tournament) eliminates about half of his friends so then we came back to this.”
Chan’s tribute team, that also includes some of his former wheelchair rugby teammates, has already raised $7,000 for B.C. Wheelchair Sports in about two weeks thanks mainly to a recent pub night in his honour.
Chan’s decorated career also included being featured in the award-winning documentary “Murder Ball” which looked at the lives of paraplegic rugby players on and off the court.
“Ian had always been an athlete and super competitive. When he was at GF Strong (rehabilitation centre) it was Rick Hansen who convinced him to give wheelchair rugby a try. A couple of years later he was on Team Canada.
“We went to the ‘Murder Ball’ premiere together. I saw him go through the entire journey. He was the face of wheelchair rugby and played at the highest level.
“I think he was having a bit of a tough time understanding the transition out from that (career as an athlete). He had been grappling with that and doing some coaching as well. He was just a remarkable guy that never let anything hold him back.”
This year’s tournament will feature an Ian Chan Spirit Award. Look for his name to be associated even more moving forward.
“We didn’t really have too much time to work with so we decided to start with the spirit award,” explained Matt McDonell of B.C. Wheelchair Sports. “But it will be expanding over the next two years where you would potentially see the branding of the tournament shift to Ian.
“He was Mr. Everything. Such a great personality. He always brought a positive vibe when he came in the office. He was a tremendous athlete that had become one of our rugby head coaches.”