When Lisa Franks was 14, she woke up unable to feel her legs.
Several blood vessels on her spine had burst leading to her paralysis.
“I just wasn’t feeling well and I went to bed and woke up and couldn’t walk and had an emergency surgery … it was just like that with a snap of the fingers life changed very dramatically,” Franks said at the announcement of her induction into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame.
A scary situation for anyone at any age, Franks clung to sports to give her a sense of normalcy after her life-changing diagnosis.
“It gave me confidence, it gave me wonderful friendships, I got to travel and I got to see the world and really I got to learn to be independent.”
While Franks was still in the hospital, she was being visited by wheelchair athletes and Paralympians who let her know what was possible.
“Even in the hospital I started playing wheelchair rugby and just having that display of athleticism in front of me while I was going through that made the transition so much easier,” she explained.
Franks went on to be a decorated Paralympic athlete competing in wheelchair sprints.
At her first Olympics in Sydney in 2000, she won gold medals in the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m and a silver medal in the 100m. In 2004 in Athens she defended her medals in the 200m and 400m and throughout her career set world records in the 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, 1500m, 5000m, and marathon events.
But her Olympic story wasn’t over yet.
In 2008, she went back to the Games as a member of the wheelchair basketball team that finished fifth. She was the first person from Saskatchewan to ever be named to the team.
Franks retired from competition after the Beijing Olympics but continues to coach.
In light of the Humboldt bus crash, the province and the nation has spoken a lot about how sport can help someone heal and Franks said that was absolutely her experience too.
“Sport to me, just helped me get over everything I was dealing with as a teenager dealing with a transition … It was just a light that I could see that I could overcome a lot through sport.”
Franks is one of seven athletes who will be inducted into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame in the fall.
The others include Kimberly Bergey Kaip (judo and wrestling), Johnny Gottselig (hockey), Dick Nash (Rodeo), David Pagan (baseball), Robert Haver (Builder, rowing) and the Randy Woytowich mixed curling team.
The induction dinner takes place on Sept. 29.