Sports Superstar

Imagine you’ve worked your tailfeathers off to prepare for a national track and field event. You’ve put in months of training, made major sacrifices, possibly said no to pie on more than one occasion. And then you arrive at the host city only to discover the airline has ripped your shoes. Not just any shoes, but custom-made racing shoes that precisely fit your feet and no others, shoes that cost you over $5,000, shoes you’d carefully wrapped in bubble wrap to prevent damage during the flight… shoes that can’t be replaced in time for the big event.

Wow, that would suck.

That’s the equivalent of what happened to Ryan Shay of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. He came to Edmonton for the Canadian Track and Field Championships, planning to race his personal best in several events, hoping to qualify for the Parapan Am Games later this month.

Shay is an accomplished wheelchair athlete. The “shoes” the airline destroyed were actually the front fork and steering bar of his racing chair. Without this custom equipment, Shay was out of the races.

Luckily, Shay’s athletic rival (and pal, it should be said) Ben Brown was not going to watch his friend miss this hard-earned opportunity. He called mom and dad back home in Nova Scotia, and arranged for some of his own spare parts to be shipped to Edmonton. They were adapted and fitted in time for Shay’s competitions. They weren’t a perfect match, but they got him in.

And, happily, both Brown and Shay performed well enough to qualify for Toronto’s Parapan Am Games in August (the final Canadian team has not yet been named).

Shay had only glowing words for his friend’s good deed. “I just expect that from Ben,” he said in this news story. “Not just because we’re buddies, just because he’s a kind soul. He’s a great, great person.”

The men’s trainer didn’t seem surprised either. “We live in Canada, so it’s just our second nature to help a friend out in need. And… they both want the best for each other.” Let’s hope we see them both in Toronto.

You won’t see me for the next little while, though. I’ll be on summer vacation. (Hear that? It’s the gentle sound of a paddle being dipped into the water. By paddle, of course, I mean ice cubes. And when I say water, I actually mean a lime margarita.) Let the holidays begin.

Photo courtesy of ponsulak /

Photo courtesy of ponsulak /

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