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N.S. parathlete helps friend after race wheelchair damaged on flight

07/02/2015 07:27 EDT | Updated 07/02/2016 05:59 EDT
Friendship does come before winning — at least for two Nova Scotia buddies who are also parathletes.

Ryan Shay, 21, had flown on WestJet from Halifax to Edmonton to compete at the Canadian Track and Field Championships.

As he unpacked a special bag, he found his customized $6,000 racing wheelchair still in bubble wrap, but the front fork and steering bar were bent.

"I looked at it and I've learned not to get too angry anymore because there's not much you can do about it.  But I'm not happy of course," said the Yarmouth native.

So Shay turned to friend — and sometime rival — Ben Brown. Brown, 27, called home to Nova Scotia and got his parents in Waterville to send spare, specialized wheelchair parts.

The spare pieces were installed on Shay's wheelchair Thursday afternoon, just in time to compete.

Brown says the gesture is part of fair play.

"Ryan and I are not just teammates, we're in two different categories. But even if we were in the same category, I don't want to beat someone on the sidelines, I want to beat them on the track."

The Canadian way

Their trainer at Canadian Sports Centre Atlantic, Jeremy Steinbach, said it comes with being Canadian.

"A: we live in Canada, so it's just our second nature to help a friend out in need. And B: they both want the best for each other," he said.  

Their chairs are customized to suit their different racing styles. Shay races in a lower profile, Brown is more upright. So Shay's not expecting a personal best times in the 100, 200 and 400 metre sprints at the nationals.

"Every angle and every degree counts quite a bit. It's like wearing a pair of shoes. You lose your shoes and someone else gives you a pair of shoes that's either too small or too big. It'll do for now but it's just going to cause problems down the road."

But Shay's ready to roll at this Parapan Am Games qualifier, thanks to a friend.

"I just expect that from Ben. Not just because we're buddies, just because he's a kind soul. He's a great, great person, he's always there. He's always trying to help you, and push you as much as he can to better his teammates," said Shay. 

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