Paralympic postponement disappointment for Saskatoon paraswimmer
SASKATOON -- Shelby Newkirk has set multiple world records in the pool and was looking forward to competing in her first Paralympic Games this summer in Tokyo, Japan.
The International Olympic Committee’s decision to postpone both the Olympic and Paralympic games because of the COVID-19 pandemic is a disappointment for the 23-year-old.
“I definitely didn’t know what to do or how to process that,” Newkirk said via Skype on Thursday. “It was definitely a lot.”
- COVID-19 updates for Saskatoon and area Thursday, March 26
- 'We have to adapt': Saskatoon doctor turns to phone calls with patients
Like so many other athletes around the world, she’s waiting on an announcement of when the games will take place and if they’ll need to re-qualify.
“What are going to be the criteria, so they’ve just removed all the criteria now,” said her coach Eric Kramer with the Saskatoon Lasers Swim Club. “Carding, so a lot of those guys are getting funded by the Canadian government right now for training, so everything’s up in the air right now.”
“Right now we don’t even know when it’s going to be, we just know it’ll probably be sometime in 2021,” said Newkirk.
She was diagnosed with Dystonia, a neurological movement disorder syndrome, that can lead to abnormal posture because of muscle contractions. Self-isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic means she won’t get regular access to physiotherapy or to the swimming pool.
“She’s got to keep active,” said Kramer. “She’s got to make sure she gets a lot of stretching, otherwise her whole body’s just going to close in.”
“I’m just really trying to manage it as best I can,” said Newkirk. “Just really take care of myself so that I can try to limit the progression as best I can, I guess.”
Dystonia is progressive condition, so having to wait another year for the Paralympic Games is concerning for Newkirk.
“I don’t know what the next month’s going to look like, I don’t know what my body’s going to be like in the coming weeks, months,” she said. “To think what it’s going to be like next year, it’s definitely a scary thought.”
In the meantime, Newkirk is training at home and waiting to get back on the road to her first Paralympic Games.
“We’re just kind of getting creative with workouts,” she said. “I also recently bought a handcycle, so I’ve been using that a lot too. Just kind of adapting everything so that I can still keep active at home.”