Regina swimmer hopes to make Paralympic debut despite COVID-19 pandemic setback

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Regina swimmer hopes to make Paralympic debut despite COVID-19 pandemic setback
WATCH: Restrictions were eased to allow carded Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls to train with their teams, but the time spent out of the pool is putting pressure on one Regina swimmer hoping to make it to Tokyo – Mar 24, 2021

For 15 years, Krystal Shaw has been chasing her Paralympic dream. Now, COVID-19 might be the biggest hurdle standing in her way.

Shaw, 27, first started swimming competitively when she was nine years old.

“I was about 12 years old when I first qualified for the Can-Am para-swimming championship. That was the point when I knew [the Paralympics] was where I wanted to go,” Shaw said.

However, the pandemic forced the cancellation of last year’s trials in Toronto and postponed the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Summer Games until August 2021.

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Shaw says the “biggest challenge is not knowing” what could happen this time around, but there is a silver lining to the cancellations.

“I’m definitely feeling a little more hopeful this year because of that extra year,” Shaw said.

Even though Shaw, and other Paralympic hopefuls, had another year to practice, she says public health restrictions did impact the quality of her training.

“I wasn’t able to train with my teammates or have my coach there, so it was all just by myself,” Shaw said. “It has definitely been difficult not being able to come to the Lawson Aquatic Centre, but I’ve been fortunate enough to have a friend who has an indoor pool at her house where I can train.”

Until recently, athletes older than 18 could not practice or compete under public health orders. In February, the Saskatchewan government eased restrictions to allow carded athletes to train for the Olympic and Paralympic games.

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Limited pandemic training did set Shaw back physically, according to her coach Jeff Toth, who is with the Flatland Swim Club.

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“You just can’t get the amount of work in that you need to get in, but on the flip side by adding in some of the unique training I think we’ve gained in certain areas,” he said.

During the pandemic, Shaw began working with therapists to increase mobility in her legs and now trains with a swim bench at home.

Krystal Shaw, 27, trains at home on her swim bench. Courtesy: Krystal Shaw

“This year has been a big challenge obviously for everyone. The biggest thing is just staying positive and she has been able to stay very positive,” Toth said.

Both Toth and Shaw continue to be hopeful despite ongoing uncertainties.

The swimming trials, originally scheduled for April, have been pushed to May 24-28 in Toronto, again due to COVID restrictions.

According to Swimming Canada, it “reserves the right to cancel the 2021 Olympic & Paralympic Trials at any point should it be determined to be unsafe to proceed.”

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If that happens, the organization can choose swimmers to represent Team Canada at both the Olympics and Paralympics “by other means based on exceptional circumstances.”

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Toth is hoping it won’t get to that.

“She’s spent a lot of time struggling to get to this point and working really hard to get here and I think it would just be a nice cap to a career,” he said.

This is the last kick at the can for Shaw, who is chasing her Paralympic debut. If trials go ahead, this would be her first time competing at the event.

“It will be pretty challenging, but I have faith and a lot of the other coaches have faith in me, too,” she said.

Shaw is looking to qualify in three events: 400 m freestyle, 100 m freestyle and 100 m breaststroke.

The Tokyo Paralympic Games are set to begin on Aug. 24.

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