Keely Shaw endured an emotional roller-coaster ride that started on Sunday night, when the Canadian Olympic Committee and the Canadian Paralympic Committee announced they wouldn’t be sending athletes to the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo, over concerns of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Canada was the first country to say they wouldn’t compete in Tokyo if the Games were held this year, and called for the global sporting event to be pushed back to 2021.
At first the Midale athlete, who has been working to be part of Canada’s Paralympic cycling entry since 2017, was disappointed that Canada wouldn’t be involved. But she supported the decision.
Less than 36 hours later, the announcement was made that the 2020 Tokyo Games would be rescheduled to next year.
And Shaw said she couldn’t be prouder of how Canada handled the situation.
“As heartbreaking as this was, and as hard as it was for me to hear, it was the only option,” she told Lifestyles. “I’m super-proud to be from a country that was willing to put their neck out there and be the first one to say no, we value our athletes as humans first and athletes seconds, and we do not want to put them in this risky environment.”
Still, she felt numb at first when she heard Canada wouldn’t compete this year.
“It’s definitely pretty heart-breaking. My heart dropped on Sunday when I got the email from Cycling Canada saying this was the call. For me, I’ve been training with my eyes set specifically since 2017.”
Nor was she surprised when Canada pulled out of the Games. It’s not just an issue related to the health of the athletes and their families; it’s difficult for athletes to train right now, with such a large emphasis placed on social distancing, and with gyms and pools closed.
“How do you train and how do you ensure that you’re bringing the best packages and the best performances that you can to this epitome of sporting events, while still making sure that you stay safe and those around you stay safe?” she asked.
In Shaw’s case, her training doesn’t have to be adapted that much. She has some equipment in her basement that allows her to train consistently throughout the year.
Shaw believes all prospective Olympic and Paralympic athletes breathed a huge sigh of relief when the Games were postponed.
A decision hasn’t been made on when next year’s Olympics will be held, but it would have to be within 12 months of the scheduled start this summer.
Shaw noted it will take a lot of logistical work before something is finalized, in part because there are major international events like the world championships for aquatics and track and field that will have to be rescheduled.
While Shaw is one of the top-ranked female Paralympic cyclists in the world, there’s no guarantee she will compete at Tokyo next year. Canada is expected to send five men and four women to Tokyo, and at every race she competes, she accumulates points.
Canada’s entry for the Paralympics was supposed to be announced after the road world championships in June, but that’s now undecided.
“I feel like I was in a good spot to go, having podiumed at track worlds in 2019 and being just off the podium at every road worlds I’ve done, and just off the podium here in Milton (Ontario) in January,” she said.
Until the team is named, she is going to keep training. When events resume, she’ll be competing, all in an effort to be in Tokyo in 2020.