Inspirational Athletes

Belief: John Dykstra

“Belief in oneself is one of the most important bricks in building any successful venture.” Frank Gifford

In July of 1995, John Dykstra, a basketball player at the University of British Columbia (Canada), camped at Kalamalka Lake with some friends to attend a soccer tournament. They all decided to go for a swim in the lake, and found a dock to dive in from. John, about to be the first one to dive in, warned his friends that the water appeared shallow, perhaps several meters, and that they should dive shallow. But John did not realize that the water was in fact only one meter deep.

He dove in, and soon everything became black. John broke three vertebrae in his neck, and instantly became a quadriplegic. He was taken back to Vancouver, where doctors examined him and felt that he would never walk again, but would likely gain increased arm movement and should go through surgery and rehabilitation.

Although the doctors’ views seemed bleak, John believed in himself and believed that he would be all right. He underwent surgery at the University of British Columbia, where Dr. Marcel Dvorak used pieces of hip bone to replace Dykstra’s damaged vertebrae. The surgery turned out to be successful, as John was able to move his toes when the surgery was completed, and it seemed that his chances of being able to walk again were much higher.

Then John began an intense, rigorous, and often painful physiotherapy process. All the while, his family was supportive of him. His father aided him in preparing exercise equipment, his mother massaged his sore muscles, and they along with his sisters showed tremendous support for his recovery.

Amazingly enough, John’s recovery progressed so well that not only was able to walk again, but he rejoined the University of British Columbia’s basketball team less than half a year after the accident occurred. He had a successful career there, which culminated in him earning Canada West All Star Team honors in 1998. He also graduated that year with a Bachelor Degree in Human Kinetics.

John has shared his amazing story many times with school children as part of a University of British Columbia Athletics program with the acronym PRIDE, where John is the P in pride, standing for “positive mental attitude.”

John enjoys sharing his triumph with others. “It’s an old saying, but its true,” says John. “If you believe in yourself, you can do anything.”

Inspirational Athletes