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.”