Jeff Tiessen is a Canadian and world record holder in several track and field events for persons with physical disabilities. He competed in three Paralympic Games and several World Championships, winning a number of medals. He is admired for his ongoing commitment to improving the lives of people with disabilities.
Tiessen was born on June 9, 1965 in Leamington.
A keen and accomplished athlete throughout his youth, Tiessen played in the Leamington Minor Hockey Association while representing Kingsville on both baseball and soccer travel teams.
In 1977, Tiessen suffered a serious injury while tobogganing, which resulted in doctors amputating both his arms above the elbow. Encouraged by his family not to remove himself from sports, Tiessen returned to hockey using equipment specially adapted for him by his father. He also played on Kingsville High School’s soccer team.
Tiessen caught the attention of the Windsor Bulldogs Disabled Sports Club, which encouraged him to develop his skills in track and field. Before long, he had qualified for provincial and national teams. As a young man, Tiessen competed regularly in the 200-, 400-, and 800-metre races plus long jump and high jump. He won several medals and set a number of records. He was named National Amputee Athlete of the Year on three separate occasions.
In 1984, Tiessen competed in the International Games for the Disabled, that year’s Summer Paralympics, where he won a silver medal in high jump and narrowly missed out on a bronze in the 200-metre race. He added a silver medal in the 400-metre race at the 1986 World Championships.
After high school, the University of Western Ontario accepted Tiessen as a student. He began his studies in London but transferred to the University of Windsor in 1987. Back closer to home, he trained alongside the Lancers in preparation for the 1988 Paralympics in Seoul, South Korea while earning a degree in Communications.
In Seoul, Tiessen won the gold medal and set a world record in the double amputee 400-metre run. Two years later, at the 1990 World Championships, Tiessen won the 400 in 53.31 seconds – a world record that still stood at the time of his induction.
Tiessen competed at a third Paralympics in 1992 in Barcelona. Unfortunately, a hamstring injury limited him to a bronze medal.
He holds several Canadian records, including marks in the 200-metre, 400-metere, and 800-metre races plus long jump and triple jump.
Tiessen was honoured with an “A” award from the University of Windsor in 1990. In 1993, he received the “King Clancy Award,” an honour presented by the Canadian Foundation for Physically Disabled Persons that recognizes commitment to the enrichment of the lives of people with disabilities. He also belongs to the “Variety Village Hall of Fame” and is a member of the Terry Fox Hall of Fame Selection Committee. In September 2007, Tiessen received a Sport Achievement Award from the University of Windsor Alumni Association.
Over 20 years ago, Tiessen founded Disability Today Publishing Group. The organization produces Active Living magazine, an “Adapted Lifestyle Resource Guide” circulated to over 50,000 readers.
Tiessen continues to be a role model for persons with disabilities by maintaining an active involvement in soccer, horseback riding, and five-kilometre races. He has coached with “Timbit” tee-ball and soccer programs in which his children have participated.