David Willsie

David Willsie (born March 28, 1968) is a Canadian coach and former Wheelchair rugby player.

David Willsie
Date of birth (1968-03-28) March 28, 1968 (age 53)
Place of birthDorchester, Ontario, Canada
Medal record
Men's wheelchair rugby
Representing  Canada
Paralympic Games
Silver medal – second place 2004 Athens Team competition
Bronze medal – third place 2008 Beijing Team competition
Silver medal – second place 2012 London Team competition

Early lifeEdit

Willsie was born on March 28, 1968, in Dorchester, Ontario, Canada[1] to parents John and Jean.[2] His father was an international ice hockey referee and his cousin Brian Willsie played in the National Hockey League.[1] Willsie was born and raised in London, Ontario and earned a marketing diploma from Fanshawe College.[3]

Willsie was a semi-pro baseball player and a cross-country runner before being left quadriplegic following a recreational hockey game in 1995.[2] While recovering in the hospital, Willsie was recruited by a local coach from Strathroy to play para-rugby.[4] At the time, he was not interested in wheelchair sports because he felt that they were more of a "consolation" sport. However, after visiting a local wheelchair rugby group and seeing their intensity, he chose to pursue the sport.[5] Following this, he started playing wheelchair rugby with the London Annihilators in 1997 and made the Ontario team in 1998.[3] He officially joined the Canadian National Wheelchair Rugby team in 1999.[6]


Upon qualifying for the Canadian National Wheelchair Rugby team, Willsie made his Paralympic Games debut in 2000. The team came in fourth and it was the first international showing where the team did not medal.[3] During the competition, he served as co-captain.[7] He remained as captain for the 2004 Summer Paralympics, where he won a silver medal.[8] The teams' experience during the Games were captured in the documentary Murderball which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.[9][10] Willsie returned to Team Canada for the 2008 Summer Paralympics where he helped them win a bronze medal.[11]

As a result of his athletic achievements, Willsie's hometown recreation centre included a purpose-built training facility for use by Willsie and his team.[12] After winning another silver medal at the 2012 Summer Paralympics, Willsie was the recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.[2] After Canada failed to medal in the 2016 Summer Paralympics, Willsie retired from competing but accepted an assistant coaching position with the national team.[13][14] In 2017, Willsie and Garett Hickling becaome the first ever rugby players to have their jerseys retired by the Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association.[15]


  1. ^ a b "David Willsie". paralympic.ca. Retrieved May 22, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c Bunnell, Eric (June 26, 2013). "Belmont's Dave Willsie adds Diamond Jubilee medal to his already large collection". St. Thomas Times Journal. Retrieved May 22, 2021.
  3. ^ a b c "DAVID WILSIE". athletescan.com. AthletesCAN. Retrieved May 22, 2021.
  4. ^ "New season, tournaments and more". londonsportsxpress.ca. London SportsXpress. November 1, 2019. Retrieved May 22, 2021.
  5. ^ "DAVE WILLSIE — LIFE FROM SPORT" (PDF). sciontario.org. 2020. Retrieved May 22, 2021.
  6. ^ Kingston, Gary (June 20, 2012). "Wheelchair rugby - a.k.a. Murderball". The Vancouver Sun. Retrieved May 22, 2021 – via newspapers.com.
  7. ^ "Get Pumped for the Paralympics!". abilities.ca. 2004. Retrieved May 22, 2021.
  8. ^ "Ontario honours its Olympic and Paralympic athletes". ontario.ca. October 27, 2004. Retrieved May 22, 2021.
  9. ^ Spencer, Donna (September 4, 2012). "Murderball still resonates for Canada's Paralympic rugby squad". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved May 22, 2021.
  10. ^ Van Brenk, Debora (January 22, 2014). "Intensity level hard to beat". London Free Press. Retrieved May 22, 2021.
  11. ^ "Wheelchair Rugby". paralympic.org. Retrieved May 22, 2021.
  12. ^ Van Brenk, Donna (August 14, 2016). "Canada's murderball team will do its final training camp in Dorchester Sept. 1-5". London Free Press. Retrieved May 22, 2021.
  13. ^ "Dave Willsie Named as National Wheelchair Rugby Assistant Coach". onpara.ca. February 28, 2017. Retrieved May 22, 2021.
  14. ^ "WHEELCHAIR RUGBY'S DAVID WILLSIE MAKES NATURAL TRANSITION INTO COACHING". paralympic.ca. September 1, 2020. Retrieved May 22, 2021.
  15. ^ "London Annihilators Wheelchair Rugby". londonsportsxpress.ca. September 2, 2017. Retrieved May 22, 2021.