The country’s affairs and all, Parliament Hill can sometimes seem a bit officious and dull. But that wasn’t the case this past October 5th during the 11th annual Rolling Rampage on the Hill. Once again, the international men’s and women’s wheelchair race brought the Hill to life with an outstanding display of athleticism, raw energy and passion. Rolling Rampage is a 10-kilometre event that plays out over 18 laps. The course features blistering fast straightaways, a challenging hill and tight,
90-degree turns.

This year, the race attracted elite competitors from eight countries – the United States, Japan, Australia, South Africa, Spain,
Switzerland, Denmark and Canada. As in past years, the athletes competed for a total prize purse of $30,000, donated by Scotiabank.
In the men’s category, Switzerland’s Marcel Hug took first place, completing the course in a little under 23 minutes. Tomoki Suzuki of Japan snagged second, while Krige Schabort of South Africa came in third. Among the women, last year’s winner Amanda McGrory of the United States again grabbed first, with Madison De
Rozario of Australia finishing second and Diane Roy of Canada coming in third.

Afterwards, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities Kent Hehr participated in the awards ceremony, hosted by Speaker of
the House of Commons Geoff Regan and Speaker of the Senate George Furey. Like in previous years, the 2017 Rolling Rampage also featured a wheelchair relay race, organized each year by Brian MacPherson, CEO of Commonwealth Games Canada. The race pits teams of Hill politicians against one another.
About 50 senators and members of parliament participated in this year’s event.

The relay competition is always a good-natured affair, but the jokes STORMING THE HILL The Honorable Vim Kochhar presenting the Rolling Rampage torch to Prime
Minister Justin Trudeau and laughter don’t take away from the serious intent. It’s all about exposing Parliamentarians to the sport and letting them experience firsthand just how much athleticism and skill is required to be a competitive wheelchair racer.

“Our objective in holding Rolling Rampage each year is to reinforce the message to Parliamentarians that disability is not something that stands in the way of ability and accomplishment,” said Vim Kochhar, founder of Rolling Rampage on the Hill and chair of the event’s main sponsor, the Canadian Foundation for Physically Disabled Persons (CFPDP).“By taking part in the relay event before the main race, they realize that racing on a challenging course while sitting in a wheelchair is not easy and, in fact, requires a great amount of training and skill. Then they see the actual race with the wheelchairs going at almost 50 kilometers an hour, and it boggles the mind.

A More Informed View
“So the next time they’re asked to vote on legislation affecting people with disabilities, they will have a more informed view about what people with disabilities are capable
of if given the right support. And, hopefully, they will vote the right way.” The 2017 Rolling Rampage on the Hill Organizing Committee was co-chaired by Senators Yonah Martin, Chantal Petitclerc, Jim Munson and Sabi Marwah. Marwah was appointed to the Senate in 2016. Previously, he was the vice chair and chief operating officer of Scotiabank, a position he had held since 2008. After attending several CFPDP events on behalf of Scotiabank, he was very impressed with the charitable organization’s commitment to the cause of helping people with physical disabilities and became a strong supporter of its initiatives.

“Vim always struck me as a remarkable individual in terms of the passion with which he has approached the cause of physical disability,” said Marwah. “Scotiabank is a
long-time funder of causes related to people with physical disabilities. When Vim asked us to get involved, we agreed, and Scotiabank has supported both the Great Valentine Gala and Rolling Rampage for many, many years.” Marwah said, apart from being an exciting race event, Rolling Rampage plays an important role as an awareness
vehicle for disability sport. “It exposes Parliamentarians, who have an important role as policy makers, as well as others in the community, to the tremendous abilities and skills that these athletes have. And it highlights the fact that wheelchair racing is a legitimate sport that is worthy of our support.”

It’s one thing to hear about something in the abstract, he said. “But when you actually can see it, that’s far more powerful.” Senator Yonah Martin said that, “Speaking from experience, I can say that my awareness has been greatly increased, and I know that if a bill were to come before the Senate today, I would vote with far greater understanding, awareness and conviction than in the past.”

Students Shout Encouragements
Each year, the Rolling Rampage race course is lined with spectators. Traditionally, the audience has included thousands of Ottawa-region students, who have been given the
morning off to attend the competition and participate in an able-bodied relay race. They quickly get caught up in the excitement of the main race event, choose their favorite athletes and shout encouragements from the sidelines. “The race is a tremendous showcase for what people with disabilities can accomplish, Martin said. “I believe it’s
important for young people, in particular, to be able to watch these amazing athletes display their strength and determination in a sport they love.”

Race organizer Amanda Fader agrees that seeing a wheelchair race close-up as a spectator can have a profound impact on a person’s view of physical disability and sport.
“That’s how I got hooked. I was coaching track and field, and there were wheelchair athletes at the track. I saw what they were doing and thought, ‘I love it, how do
I get involved.’” Fader, who coaches Paralympian wheelchair racer and three-time Rolling Rampage champion Josh Cassidy, said that, due to integration within the school system, it’s not that big a deal anymore for young able-bodied kids to know people with physical disabilities who have noteworthy skills and accomplishments.

“But to actually see the level of competition and the excitement at an elite wheelchair race, that’s something else. It’s not about being inspired by the human spirit. It’s about the competition and the raw energy and the sweat and the mud. There was one year when it poured rain and the kids were out there and they were cheering and screaming, and the athletes are filthy. It’s the grit – that to me has a huge awareness factor and makes a huge impact on the kids.”