#18: Duncan Campbell

Written by Laurel Crosby

Duncan Campbell never dreamed, when he headed off with ten friends for a day of swimming at the lake, that his life would change forever.

Duncan was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba and as a young man loved sports, especially hockey.  When Duncan was 17 years old, while diving at a local swimming hole, he hit the bottom, broke his neck and became a quadriplegic. The year was 1973.

Although Duncan had given up on sports just prior to his accident, he began to renew his interest in sport while at the Manitoba Rehabilitation Center. One evening in 1976, Duncan, along with three of his friends; Gerry Terwin, Randy Dueck and Paul LeJeune showed up for their weekly weightlifting session. The volunteer who had been scheduled to assist them did not show up, so they headed to the gymnasium for some exercise. They began wheeling around the gym, throwing a volleyball back and forth and trying to score by throwing the ball into a garbage can. The challenge with using the garbage can was that because of the limited abilities in their arms, nobody could get the ball out of the can. Therefore, they decided that wheeling over the end line between two pylons would work better, as a means of scoring. This new game, which they named Murderball, was created that night.

Duncan and his friends continued to play this new game, coming up with some basic rules, regulations and chair designs, as well as encouraged some of their able-bodied friends to come out and play with them. They were convinced that this was a great new game that needed to be promoted beyond Manitoba. Thus Duncan decided to attend the multi-sport/multi disability games in Edmonton in 1977 and convince a number of other provinces to get some teams together to do a demonstration of Murderball.

Soon after demonstrating Murderball to others in Canada, the game quickly spread to the US and overseas to Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Britain. Although originally called Murderball, the name was changed to Wheelchair Rugby in 1984 for funding purposes. Now one of the world’s fastest growing Paralympic sports, wheelchair rugby is active in over fifty nations. Its popularity has grown significantly since its inclusion as a medal sport in Sydney at the Paralympic Games in 2000.

Affectionately known as the “Quadfather”, Duncan has pretty much ‘done it all” with wheelchair sports and wheelchair rugby over the past four decades. He has earned a BA in Psychology from the University of Manitoba and a BA in Recreation Administration from the University of Alberta. Moving to BC in 1986 to work as a recreational therapist at G.F. Strong Rehabilitation Centre, he was in a position to influence, counsel and mentor many young people with disabilities to become involved in sports and in particular, wheelchair rugby. He has served as a member of the International Wheelchair Rugby Federation, National Development Director at Canadian Wheelchair Sports, and committee member for the 2010 World Wheelchair Rugby Championships, as well as all of the Canada Cup Championships hosted by British Columbia. Duncan currently works at the National Coordinator of the Bridging the Gap Program.

Acknowledged as one of the creators of Wheelchair Rugby, a Canadian Heritage Sport, Duncan has been recognized with a number of honors; having the name of the national wheelchair rugby championship trophy changed in 2004 to the Campbell Cup, receiving the Paralympic Order in 2013, the highest tribute a person connected with the Paralympic movement can receive and being inducted in to the BC Sports Hall of Fame in 2015.

Nowadays, Duncan’s new and most exciting challenge is fatherhood. He is the father of two beautiful little girls; Macy who is 2 years old and the latest addition, Kenzie who is 4 months.