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Wheelchair tennis star from North Bay named a flag bearer at Parapan Games

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A Canadian wheelchair tennis star from North Bay, Ont., will be one of Team Canada’s flagbearers for the upcoming Parapan American Games in Santiago, Chile.

Rob Shaw was a runner-up at the Wimbledon Championships in England this past summer in wheelchair tennis men’s quad doubles.

Shaw was selected along with para cyclist Shelley Gauthier.

“I didn’t think I was even in the conversation for that position and that honour,” Shaw said in between packing for the journey.

“It took me by surprise. It’s one of those honours as an athlete you don’t think is ever going to happen to you.”

Shaw was eliminated in the Wimbledon quarter-finals in the singles category to No. 2 seed, Sam Schroder from the Netherlands. He and his partner, Heath Davidson from Australia, also fell just short in the doubles final against powerhouse Dutch duo, Schroder and his teammate Niels Vink.

“What I’ve learned from those moments is how to play and how to maintain my composure in those high-pressure environments,” he said.

“That match was the most pressure I’ve felt. I’ve taken away a lot of positives as far as how to conduct myself on the court.”

Shaw is the defending Parapan Am gold medalist, taking home the title at the Lima, Peru, games four years ago. The 33-year-old was the first Canadian tennis player, standing or wheelchair, to win a medal in singles at a multi-sport event.

“The last games was my first time ever with no expectations,” Shaw said.

“This time I have a bit of a target on my back. I’m going in feeling good. I’ve been hitting a good ball this year.”

He reflected on his journey to becoming a wheelchair tennis athlete. When he was 21, Shaw was partially paralyzed from the neck down after a diving accident. But he didn’t let that stop him from playing the game he loves.

ROSE THROUGH THE RANKINGS

With hard work and training, Shaw adapted to playing tennis in a wheelchair. From there, he quickly rose in the world rankings. He is currently ranked singles world No. 9 in the quad division (with a career high of No. 6).

Shaw will be competing in both men’s singles and doubles at the competition.

“My partner Mitch McIntyre will be out there with me. He’s a good buddy of mine. We’ve been playing together for a few years,” Shaw said.

He owns 22 International Tennis Federation singles and 22 ITF doubles titles in his career and made his Paralympic games debut at Tokyo 2020. He calls this opportunity a great honour.

“The excitement and the nerves will probably get the best of me,” Shaw laughed.

“I’ll probably reflect on my entire career. I hope I still have a few years left in me.”

Canada will be represented by 140 athletes competing in 14 sports. The games run from Nov. 17-26. 

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