The youngest of four children, Sarah Baker was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at seven years old. At age 14 she contracted meningococcal septicemia and had to have both of her legs amputated after the IWK and Halifax Navy worked together to save her life in a recompression chamber.
Already an active multi-sport athlete in junior high school (Fairview Junior High School has a sportsmanship trophy in her name), she had played field hockey, volleyball and basketball before her amputations. During Baker’s recovery, IWK physiotherapist Wendy Oliver brought her to the Stadacona gym when the Flying Wheels wheelchair basketball team was practicing.
Wheelchair basketball, along with the swimming that was organized by The War Amps Association, became a part of Baker’s rehabilitation, and she grew stronger through competing.
Not only was Baker a very young player compared to the other Flying Wheels members and the other women on the national team, but she was also the only female player on the Flying Wheels to compete nationally with the team.
Baker went on to become a multi-Paralympic medallist, a multi-Pan American Wheelchair Games medallist and a world record setter.
Due to the nature of disabled sport at the time, Baker had to compete in many sports in order to participate in international competitions, and she wasn’t always able to focus on perfecting one sport.
In 1977, Baker started competing nationally in wheelchair basketball. She also won a gold medal in the 100m event for swimming at the Canadian Games for the Disabled in Edmonton that year, setting a Canadian and world record with her time.
The following year Baker attended the Pan American Wheelchair Games in Rio and competed in three sports: basketball, swimming and athletics. She took home gold in basketball and backstroke. She also won three golds at the Canadian Games for the Disabled in St. John’s in 1978, making it to the top of the podium in javelin, discus and 100m freestyle swim, with a Canadian and world record in javelin.
She continued to dominate internationally when she made it to the Paralympic Games in Arnhem, Netherlands in 1980, participating in swimming and athletics, winning gold in javelin and discus, claiming a bronze medal in the 100m freestyle swimming event and setting another world record in javelin (breaking her own previous record to do so).
In 1982, Baker had the honour of flying to Ottawa to receive the Pan American Wheelchair Games torch from Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and taking it back to Halifax where the Games were held. She then won silver with the Canadian women’s wheelchair basketball team after an exciting final game against the American team.
Baker was named Canadian Amputee Athlete of the year and was invited to have lunch with Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip. She was also a head table guest at the prestigious King’s Meadow Sports Celebrity Dinner.
• Wheelchair basketball, swimming, athletics
• Three-time Paralympic medallist, 1980
• Two-time world record setter in javelin
• World record setter in 100m swimming event
• Two-time Para Pan Am gold medallist
• Three-time National Games gold medallist
• Para Pan Am torch bearer, 1982