Putting Others Before Himself, Hall Of Famer Dave Kiley Still Managed To Stand Out In Three Sports

by Bob Reinert

Dave Kiley competes during the men's preliminary wheelchair basketball match against Spain at the Paralympic Games Barcelona 1992 in Barcelona, Spain.


As Dave Kiley looked back on everything he has accomplished as a Paralympic athlete, coach, sports executive and promoter, it will come as no surprise to those who know him that he mentioned others before himself.
“I did a ‘Wheels of Hope’ tour in Bosnia right after the war. The national Bosnian (wheelchair basketball) team followed us around from city to city,” Kiley recalled. “We were giving wheelchairs out, and we were playing exhibition games. I saw a war-torn country and atrocities being recounted, and what we were doing was really impactful.”
Kiley remembered one small Bosnian city, in particular, from his visit.
“They had to shut down the power in the city in order to have lights in the gym where we were going to play, and people packed into this little place,” Kiley said. “It was electric.”
Kiley has produced plenty of his own juice through the decades, however. The six-time Paralympian won medals in three sports — wheelchair basketball, track and field, and alpine skiing. He coached wheelchair basketball in three more Games and was National Wheelchair Basketball Association commissioner and president. For nearly two decades, Kiley has run successful three-on-three wheelchair basketball tournaments.
His numerous accomplishments will be recognized June 24, when Kiley will be inducted to the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Hall of Fame, Class of 2022, in a ceremony at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Kiley will join Muffy Davis and Trischa Zorn-Hudson in the “Paralympian” category.
When Kiley of Mooresville, North Carolina, received the phone call that he would be inducted, he was caught off guard. 
“All of a sudden, my eyes got big, my breath was shallow,” Kiley said. “It just built to a mega-crescendo Monday morning when (the announcement) came out. And then it felt real. I’m hearing from people all around the world that I know. I’ve never been prouder about an award. I’ve had more than my share.
“I was like a kid in a candy store. I almost didn’t know how to act. I kept telling people, ‘Man, this is insane.’ I can’t stop thinking about it. I’ve been at this a long time. I’m 69 years old and didn’t have this on my radar. To put it bluntly, I’m overwhelmed with joy and pride and respectfully so.”
Kiley, who had turned to Paralympic sports after a spinal cord injury, was humbled by the congratulatory messages he received.
“Everybody recognized my talent and accomplishment (and) longevity … but no one would say just that,” Kiley said. “They would say what I’d done for others, and that is the most important part of that recognition is realizing that I’ve had a wheel print on young, old, newly injured, struggling — you name it. So, that part is of great value to me in my heart.
“I can’t believe I’m in there. I know I have the credentials, so don’t get me wrong. When a Paralympian crosses over to the other side and gets that recognition at this level, then you pretty much can say you’ve arrived. That’s kind of how I feel. This has super-significance to me.”

Dave Kiley competes during the men's preliminary wheelchair basketball match against Spain at the Paralympic Games Barcelona 1992 in Barcelona, Spain.


Ironically, his induction comes nearly three decades since one of the low points in his illustrious career. After the U.S. wheelchair basketball team went undefeated in winning the Paralympic gold medal in Barcelona, the team was disqualified when Kiley tested positive for a banned substance after taking a single Darvocet, a prescription painkiller, given to him by a coach to ease leg pain.
“It was devastation that I can’t even explain because it wasn’t just my medal, it was the entire team,” Kiley said. “That is a regret. I believe we earned (the gold medal). I didn’t gain any advantage. I wasn’t trying to cheat.”
Other than that, Kiley has few regrets. 
“Everything I’ve ever wanted to do, I’ve done,” Kiley said. “It was doing what I loved to do and not thinking much about it. I knew I was doing the right thing in a lot of areas after competition.
“Everybody knows me as a baller, and that’s just fine. My DNA is about basketball.”
Kiley said he is glad to continue being a small part of the effort to expose people to Paralympic sports.
“We still have a long ways to go,” Kiley said. “The Paralympian still has a little bit of an uphill climb to have the public become more in tune and aware.”
As he continues that work, Kiley will allow himself a moment to savor the USOPC honor he will soon receive.
“I hate to travel anymore, but I will smile all the way to Colorado Springs,” Kiley promised. “I’m going to revel in anything that they have planned and just enjoy the ride.
“I am right where I’m supposed to be. This award, this distinction, is right on time, no matter what age I’m at. It’s perfect. I’m in sports heaven in the hall of halls. I’ll forever, forever be grateful.”

During seven Paralympic Games over 24 years, Trischa Zorn-Hudson became the most decorated Paralympic athlete in history.
The visually impaired Para swimmer won 55 Paralympic medals, including 41 gold medals. In a 12-year stretch from 1980 to 1992, Zorn-Hudson won every race she entered.
Recognition is nothing new for Zorn-Hudson, now a 58-year-old from Indianapolis. She was the U.S. flag bearer at the Closing Ceremony of the Paralympic Games Athens 2004, her final Paralympic Games. In 2012, she was inducted to the Paralympic Hall of Fame in 2012. 
USA Swimming annually presents the Trischa L. Zorn Award to a swimmer with a disability who has had outstanding performances during the previous year.
Zorn-Hudson began swimming at age 10 and was the first visually impaired athlete to earn an NCAA Division I scholarship.
Muffy Davis, who competed in Para alpine skiing and Para-cycling in 1998, 2002 and 2012, won seven Paralympic medals, including three gold medals as a cyclist at the Paralympic Games London 2012.
Part of the Paralympic Movement for two decades as an athlete, ambassador, volunteer and active member of several committees, Davis is a two-term International Paralympic Committee Governing Board member and currently serves on the USOPC Governing Board and USOPC Paralympic Advisory Council.
The 49-year-old Davis is a sought-after motivational speaker on such topics as the power of attitude, teamwork, success through determination, overcoming obstacles, and mental toughness. 
Davis was inducted to the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in 2010 and two years later was inducted into the Disabled Sports USA Ski Hall of Fame.

Bob Reinert spent 17 years writing sports for The Boston Globe. He also served as a sports information director at Saint Anselm College and Phillips Exeter Academy. He is a contributor to on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.