Kelowna residents had their shot at becoming Paralympic athletes on Saturday.
Participants at the “Paralympian Search” were put through multiple skill tests to see if they had what it takes to be a paralympic athlete.
The event seeks to discover athletes with high-performance potential and introduce sport opportunities to people with disabilities.
“We’re looking for future Paralympians,” said Robert Shaw, Canada’s top-ranked wheelchair tennis player. “We’re giving people the opportunity to explore their capabilities by trying out a variety of different sports available to them in the community.”
While the goal is to find a Paralympic athlete to join Team Canada, the event is also a great opportunity for Kelowna residents to get out and try something new.
“The event is really well organized and it gives people that might not have the chance to try out this equipment, to do so,” said Scott James with BC Wheelchair Sports.
The event had around 25 participants show up, with disabilities ranging from blindness to being paraplegic.
The event had a special guest, Robert Shaw, who is currently the ninth-ranked wheelchair tennis player in the world.
“It’s a really cool event and I’m really honored for the role I’m going to play,” said Shaw, who beat David Wagner of the U.S. to win the gold medal match at the Parapan American Games this past summer.
“This is a great opportunity for people with a disability, who want to get into sport to explore different options and get an idea of a sport they could be passionate about.”
Shaw was injured in a diving accident at the age of 21, becoming partially paralyzed from the neck down. He started playing wheelchair tennis after his accident.
Prior to his accident, tennis was Shaw’s prime sport.
“A Paralympian isn’t made overnight,” said Shaw. “Sports offer different opportunities from the recreational to the international level. Time management becomes more important at the elite level. As a teenager, you have to balance sports and school, and as an adult maybe sports, work and family.”
While Shaw is one of the best in the world in wheelchair tennis, he is also completing his PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of British Columbia Okanagan campus in Kelowna.