USask graduate student Keely Shaw celebrates her bronze medal, and the first for Canada at the Paralympics in Tokyo. (Photo: Jean-Baptiste Benavent)

USask kinesiology student wins Canada’s first medal at Paralympics

University of Saskatchewan (USask) student Keely Shaw has won Canada’s first medal of the Paralympics in Tokyo.

The College of Kinesiology PhD candidate raced to a bronze medal in Para-cycling in the women’s C4 class 3,000-metre pursuit early Wednesday morning.

“I definitely left it all out there for the (bronze-medal) race and that’s when it really mattered,” Shaw told Cycling Canada and the Canadian Paralympic Committee. “I’m so excited to be able to show off all the work the entire team has done in the last five years, and have that come out with a bronze medal for Canada.”

Shaw, who is from Midale, Sask., has been a national team member for five years and earned a silver medal at her first Para-cycling world championships in 2019 in the Netherlands and was named Saskatchewan’s 2019 female athlete of the year. She edged out Australia’s Meg Lemon in a furious finish as Shaw earned a medal in her Paralympics debut.

“I’m really glad I was able to put down the times that I knew we could accomplish in the bronze-medal match when it really matters,” Shaw told CBC Sports. “I felt way better going into my medal race than I did going into my qualifier, and I think it showed with my performance. Meg was definitely catching up. She gave me the race of a lifetime, especially in the last 500 metres, and I’m just so happy I was able to bring it home.”

Shaw earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at USask, and is currently pursuing her PhD in exercise physiology and sports nutrition.

Shaw is one of two USask students competing in this year’s Paralympic Games, along with College of Education student Shelby Newkirk of Saskatoon. Newkirk also opened the Paralympics swimming competition in style on Tuesday, setting a Canadian record while finishing sixth in her qualifying race in the 50-metre S6 freestyle race.

“It was good. It was definitely fun to get to do my first-ever Paralympic Games race,” Newkirk told Swimming Canada. “I haven’t swam the 50 free in a long time, so it was really nice to get in the water and swim it again.”

Newkirk, whose father Rex is a professor in USask’s College of Agriculture and Bioresources, will also compete in the 100m backstroke—her best event—on Sept. 3.

Meanwhile, two USask alumna and former Huskie Athletics student-athletes are also scheduled to represent Canada in the Paralympics.

Nikita Ens, who advanced to two finals in the 2019 world championships, will join Newkirk in the pool in Paralympic swimming. Ens, a former Huskie track and field team member originally from Meadow Lake, earned a Bachelor of Science at USask in 2011.

Fellow former Huskie track and field standout Jennifer Brown of Calgary will compete for Canada in discus in Tokyo. Brown, who earned a Bachelor of Arts at USask in 2005, was the F38 discus champion at the Canadian track and field trials on June 27 in Montreal with a throw of 28.49 metres.

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