Sask. woman qualifies for Canada's Paralympic cycling team

Keely Shaw from Midale, Sask., is Paralympic bound as a Para cyclist for Team Canada. (Photo submitted by Keely Shaw)

Twenty-seven-year-old Keely Shaw qualified for Canada’s Para cycling team, helping her achieve a long-time dream.

“It’s been a wild ride thinking that I did my very first ride in May of 2017 and now August 2021 I’m going be at the greatest sporting event in the world,” Shaw told CTV News.

Growing up Shaw played several different sports growing including hockey, racing motocross, volleyball and badminton.

“If it was offered within a half-hour of my town I gave it a try,” Shaw said “Hockey was really the sport that I fell in love with and I dreamed of playing university level and at the Olympic level.”

That would all change in 2009 when she was involved in a horse-riding accident.

“I broke a blood vessel in my brain so that lead to complete paralysis on the left side of my brain,” Shaw said. “It’s hard to be an Olympic hockey player when you can only move half your body.”

Describing herself as lost when she was 15, Keely took some time before she would eventually find her new passion. About six years after her injury, she was approached by someone at the gym who knew her story, and told her she would be eligible for Para sport.

“I tried cross-country skiing and I was so bad,” Shaw said. “I decided we’ll switch gears.”

After commuting back and forth to school she thought she would give cycling a hand. In 2016 she bought herself, what she describes as a “good road bike.”

“I continued to train and kind of build my engine, build the length of my rides and then in May of 2017 I was like 'Keely try a race,'” Shaw said. “So I went to up to Moose Jaw and did my very first bike race.”

She was then in correspondence with the Canadian Paralympic committee to become a member of the Para cycle team. In August of 2017 she flew to Quebec to race in her first national event, placing third.

Bruce Crave, the president of Craven Sport Services, has been working with Shaw since she began the sport. 

“Let’s go out and show you how to clip in and out of your shoes,” Craven said. “Then boom, and away she goes and off to our national team.”

Craven has worked with athletes at every Olympics and Paralympics since 1988. He says Shaw is like many other Paralympic athletes.

“They are where they are because they’re fighters and their usually a bit stubborn and they are not going to take no as an answer,” Craven told CTV News.

 For Shaw, she's happy she found love for sport again and that she is Paralympic bound.

“I would say it saved my life,” Shaw said.

Possibly her biggest fan, her mother Carol Toles, is excited too.

“Absolutely surreal, Keely’s been a fighter, has always been a fighter. She’s strong both physically and mentally. Her dad and I can couldn’t be prouder of her.”

The 2020 Summer Paralympic are set to begin Aug. 24 in Tokyo.