Written by Bob Steadward
Mel was born in Trepassey, NL. Following graduation from high school he moved to St. John’s to pursue post secondary education. He worked in a variety of areas with most of his working life in sales and service of rehabilitation and medical products. Mel was exceptionally successful in this field, and, with a partner, started a company – AIM Services –, which they co-owned for 15 years.
He became involved in wheelchair sports in 1977, competing at his first national wheelchair games in Edmonton, Alberta winning a bronze medal in track. Over the course of 8 years he excelled as a wheelchair track athlete competing in the 800m, 1500m and several marathons. He won marathons in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Honolulu; and, represented Canada at two Paralympics, two Pan American Games and the 1984 Gold Cup in Australia. He won gold medals at each of these competitions and set two world records at the 1980 Paralympics.
He also competed in the 1500m demonstration wheelchair track event at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. This was the first time that male and female wheelchair athletes were invited to compete at the Olympics.
In 2013, Mel retired from the world of work and now gets to spend quality time with his grandchildren who are the love of his life. He also enjoys traveling, however, continues to compete in wheelchair basketball at the local level and represents the province at national competitions in sledge hockey and wheelchair curling. In 2014, his sledge hockey team won Divisional Champs at the London International Tournament.
Mel FitzGerald (right) and Rick Hansen (left) compete in an athletics event
Mel was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada in 1982. In 1980, he was named Canadian Male Athlete of the Year, St. John’s Athlete of the year and Newfoundland & Labrador Athlete of the Year.