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Ryan Shay, Nova Scotia parathlete, qualifies for Parapan Am Games

07/03/2015 10:53 EDT | Updated 07/03/2016 05:59 EDT
Parathlete Ryan Shay has managed to qualify for the Parapan Am Games using a wheelchair fitted with parts borrowed from a friend.

At the Canadian Track and Field Championships in Edmonton on Thursday, Shay placed third in the 100 metre para wheelchair sprint with a time of 20.2 seconds.

While this wasn't close to his personal best, Shay was happy with his performance given the circumstances.

"Did good today considering the heat, slowness of the track, chair difficulties and a glove that didn't want to stay on!" the 21-year-old wrote in a post on his Facebook account.

The troubles Shay is talking about began when he flew from Halifax to Edmonton on WestJet. 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.

WestJet has since offered Shay compensation of $1,900, but he said the chair is worth more than three times that amount.

So Shay turned to Ben Brown, his friend — and sometime rival. 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.

'It'll do for now'

Brown said 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," he told CBC News on Thursday.

Their chairs are customized to suit their different racing styles. Shay races in a lower profile, Brown is more upright.

"Every angle and every degree counts quite a bit," Shay told CBC News. "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."

Shay will be competing in the 200 and 400 metres sprints over the weekend.

The Parapan Am Games will be held in Toronto from Aug. 7 to 15.

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