It’s tennis all the way for Rob Shaw

Canadian Paralympic Committee

August 19, 2021

Longtime player made natural transition into wheelchair game

Rob Shaw

Headed to his first Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Rob Shaw is among a group of medal contenders in a very competitive quad division.

He put his name on the map in 2019, earning the gold medal at the Parapan American Games with a victory over then-world No. 1 David Wagner of the U.S. That victory in Lima was the first ever singles title at a major Games by a Canadian in both standing and wheelchair tennis.

Tennis has always been a way of life for Shaw, who recently earned his Doctor of Philosophy in Interdisciplinary Studies at UBC Okanagan.

He started playing at around age seven before becoming a coach in his hometown of North Bay, Ont. as a teenager.

‘’Ever since I grabbed a racquet, tennis has really lent itself to someone with a short attention span because there are so many points,’’ said the 31-year-old, currently ranked world No. 8 in quad tennis. “You play one point, then you forget about it and you’re on to the next point quickly.

‘’I was a very athletic individual. The community knew me as a tennis coach and I knew myself as an athlete. When I got injured I felt that part of me was stripped away.’’

Shaw became a quadriplegic 10 years ago when he mistimed a dive he had executed hundreds of times before at his family pool. He was already familiar with Para sport having coached local wheelchair tennis players for three years.

‘’I didn’t know who I was after the injury, I didn’t know who I was going to become,’’ he said. ‘’So getting back into sport in general in the first year was really about pushing myself and rediscovery.’’

During rehabilitation he was also introduced to wheelchair rugby, but wheelchair tennis was the obvious choice.

‘’Playing it though was a whole different story with a functional limitation,’’ he admitted. ‘’It was challenging but getting back into tennis allowed me to rediscover part of my identity. Now that I’m playing full time again and at a very high level, it’s a new identity.’’

Despite his success, Shaw admits he analyzes his performances far beyond wins and losses, even now as a high-performance athlete.

‘’As an athlete that doesn’t really chase titles, it’s always hard to measure your improvement,’’ he said. ‘’You’re not looking at the results as much as the process. I felt I was always progressing well and the results weren’t really there. But when the results started to fall into place, it gives you that objective measure to say I’m feeling and playing better.’’

That’s good news heading into the Paralympic Games.

For more stories about Canada’s Tokyo 2020 Paralympians, visit

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