Ryan Shay, twenty-one years old, proud Canadian.
I am a para-athlete who learned everything I needed to be hard working and dedicated in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, where I grew up. I cultivated toughness at a young age by playing every sport I could, especially hockey.
It was during one of my years playing Jr. C hockey that I got into a car accident and sustained a C7/C8 level injury, leaving me a quadriplegic with limited hand function and no movement or sensation from the chest down.
I was hospitalized for about almost three months and in rehab for another six. In my recovery I went through tons of tests (cat scans, bone density scans etc) so to kill time I worked out in the gym and practiced my wheelchair skills in the wheelchair skills lab.
After outgrowing the rehabilitation gym, my physiotherapist Sue Macleod and I tried out swimming, rowing, kayaking and wheelchair racing. Because I’ve always loved sports, when I met para-athletic sprinter Ben Brown he was very excited at my strength and potential.
Then I met Ueli Albert, now my coach, who encouraged me to move forward with para-athletics. Since then I have continued in sport, and have become involved in public speaking to inspire others.
I went to Canada Games for wheelchair basketball but have mainly focused on a career in para-athletics, competing in the 100m, 200m and 400m distances as a T52 classified athlete.
After I made the World Jr. Canadian team, I’ve had the privilege to represent Canada in the US, England, and Switzerland for some of the world’s biggest meets. I launched myself from the second last position in my first year to seventeenth out of twenty seven in my second year, and plan to someday make it to the Paralympics and win a gold medal for Canada.
"Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to just try one more time” -Thomas Edison
With this inspiration, I am raising money to boost my career to its fullest representing Canada around the world and bringing home medals for my country. Expenses include training camps, coaches, nutrition, equipment, travel, and competitions big and small.
This year I plan to travel to Arizona and Atlanta for training camps, as well as across North America, Switzerland, and maybe Dubai for big meets and road races.
Para sports, and para-athletics especially, aren’t very popular in my province of Nova Scotia. However in the past two years that I’ve competed in the sport I’ve already begun to notice a change. It used to be just myself training with Pamela LeJean and Ben Brown, but now we have included Abbey Smith, Scott Jones, Trevor Seyforth, Casey Perrin and Lyam Kenneally as well as a few other more recreational athletes into our group.
The growth is all thanks to our awesome coach Ueli Albert, an ex Team Canada coach, currently coaching for the next Canada Games and Athletics Nova Scotia. Ueli started Global Wheelchair Athletics where he coaches athletes wherever they are located, sending athletes training plans and updates online.
Working with Ueli has been amazing, and in the past two years, Pam, Ben and I can already see a real difference. We attend as many road races as we can like the Pumpkin Harvest Mile in Kentville, Milo mile/5 mile run in Yarmouth, and the annual Runway Run at the Halifax Airport. So far, organizers have been happy to adapt the courses and join in my goal of and raising awareness for para-athletes.