North Bay, Ontario native Rob Shaw arrived in Tokyo on August 20 and has since been busy preparing with coach Kai Schrameyer and Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) therapist Mara Chaplin for his first Paralympic Games appearance.
Shaw, who competes in the quad division of wheelchair tennis, was officially welcomed to the Canadian Paralympic Team on July 16, 2021. He will be one of the 128 Canadian Paralympians taking part in the 2020 Tokyo Games and the only athlete representing Canada in the sport of wheelchair tennis.
“I think that it’s just a unique opportunity to play the sport for more than just yourself,” Shaw said. “I think that most athletes have that answer at some point in their careers, but as a tennis player, you’re always on tour and always competing. You’re almost competing as a single identity.
“Obviously, your nationality is tied to your profile on the website. But, you really are just competing as yourself. Whereas here, I don’t feel like I’m competing as Rob Shaw – I feel like I’m competing as a member of the CPC, another athlete of Team Canada, which is a pretty unique feeling and it’s pretty special to have.”
Unlike most athletes, it hasn’t been the most conventional Paralympic preparation for Shaw, who hadn’t been outside the province of British Columbia since October 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Quarantine rules and travel restrictions forced the Canadian to look at other ways to train that didn’t involve playing in tournaments abroad.
“With some teammates in Vancouver, we tried to simulate match play as frequently as possible. We were able to sort of replicate what I hope to see here in Tokyo as far as the level of competition,” Shaw explained. “Then we just focus in on practice courts, drills, mock scenarios, and do our best to simulate what it would be like to face some of these competitors in Tokyo.”
Despite not being able to get used to the feeling of traveling, living in a hotel room, or playing professional matches, Shaw feels like his training has gone really well and he’s ready to play some solid tennis in his Paralympic Games debut.
“For me, there’s very little pressure coming in here. I’m not one of the medal favourites at this point in my career. Obviously I’ve had some really good wins in the past and I’ve beaten a lot of these guys who are ranked above me, so anything can happen,” Shaw indicated. “The main thing is just playing good tennis. If I go out there and I execute what we’ve been doing the last two years of practice, it should reward us with some good results.
“Whether that’s a win or a loss is sort of irrelevant as long as the play is good, I think that as a team, we’ll be pretty happy.”
Regardless of the outcome on the court, Shaw is certainly looking forward to soaking in the whole atmosphere that comes with competing at the Paralympic Games.
“I’m just trying to stay in the moment, keep things light, joke around with the coach, and just learn as much as I can from athletes who’ve been here before,” Shaw said with a smile. “I hope to take those little tidbits of knowledge and information and pack those away for potential later Games.”
Competition for wheelchair tennis begins on Saturday in Tokyo and the medal rounds start next Thursday. Be sure to check out the Tokyo 2020 website to see when Shaw plays next. You won’t want to miss any of the action!