Mike Shaw (right) discusses his story of resilience and recovery with Pat Kennedy Friday morning at the Coast Capri Hotel. -Image: Heat Athletics

Skier’s story inspires at UBCO athletics’ breakfast

Lake Country’s Mike Shaw shared his experience of coming back from a serious injury

An inspirational story of recovery took centre stage Friday as UBC Okanagan held its annual athletic scholarship breakfast in Kelowna.

Olympic athletes, varsity players, local dignitaries and the community gathered to listen to former freestyle skier Mike Shaw as he explained his journey from devastating skiing accident to learning to walk again.

Shaw, a UBC alumnus who lives in Lake Country, broke his neck in a ski accident in December 2013.

As a special guest at the 13th annual Valley First/UBC Okanagan Athletics Scholarship Breakfast, Shaw showed a video of the accident and shared the story of his recovery including his first steps, his first time in a sit-ski and finally heli-skiing.

“When I fell, I knew it was game over. My biggest fear—actually my mother’s biggest fear—had just come true,” Shaw told the packed room of more than 300 attendees. “It was devastating. I had been a skier all my life. It was like my identity had been taken away from me.”

There was a bit of luck when it came to the break in his neck, however, and Shaw recalled how doctors gave him a chance of recovery. After several surgeries, weeks and months of physio—all documented on video and shown at the breakfast—Shaw took his first wobbly steps. It was long, painful and difficult recovery, he explained. He had one message to share with the audience; it was all about using his ‘athlete mentality’and not being afraid to ‘fail as every step he took was a step forward.’

“Fail forward. I would say to everybody in this room, don’t ever give up. Athlete or not everybody has the ability to fail forward. My recovery is simply a story of hope, trust, resilience and certainly gratitude,” he said. “Getting into that sit-ski for the first time was more powerful than skiing as an able-bodied person. And simple things…like brushing my teeth….I cried the first time I brushed my teeth.”

Shaw wasn’t the only story of inspiration at the fundraising breakfast. Three members of Canada’s Winter 2018 Olympic team were on hand. Gold medallist and UBC Okanagan human kinetics student Kelsey Serwa, ski-cross athlete and UBC Okanagan graduate Ian Deans and UBC Okanagan’s Head Athletic Therapist Jeff Thorburn received a round of applause.

The giving didn’t stop there. Long-time supporters Lois and Cliff Serwa presented a gift of $150,000 to the Okanagan campus. The funds will support a new basketball scholarship and a reading room in the new Teaching and Learning Centre will bear the Serwa family name.

ALSO READ: Spotlight shines on Heat at annual awards

While the purpose of the event is to raise funds for athletic scholarships, it was also a chance to recognize and congratulate the accomplishments of the Heat athletes. It was another stellar season for the Heat. The women’s volleyball team, for the fifth year in a row, advanced to the semi-final round in Canada West playoffs and enjoyed their second trip to the national championship. Meanwhile, the men’s golf team captured its first-ever national silver medal, collecting a provincial silver on their way to the finals in October.

Soccer’s Mitch McCaw set a new Canada West record with 685 consecutive minutes without surrendering a goal. He was also the Canada West star for three straight weeks during this run. And cross-country runner Veronika Fagan was the fastest in Canada winning the national championship race and bringing home a national individual medal. She was also named Heat’s most outstanding female player of the year.

Fagan, a third-year nursing student who grew up in Kelowna, used the podium at the Athletics breakfast to thank the School of Nursing for its flexibility and support while she competed, and also thanked the community for contributing to the scholarship endowment.

“Your contributions will go a long way and eventually allow for the growth of previously overlooked sports, such as cross-country running. My goal is to help grow the UBC Okanagan cross country program into a university team which will compete with the best runners in U Sports by attracting passionate runners from elsewhere in Canada,” Fagan said. “Each and every time that I have had the privilege to wear the Heat singlet has been one to remember and I thank UBC Okanagan and its supporters for that.”

UBC Okanagan’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal Deborah Buszard also took the time to thank the community for its continued support.

“The Valley First/UBC Okanagan Athletics Scholarship Breakfast is an annual opportunity to support student athletes and celebrate excellence in sport,” says Deborah Buszard, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal of UBC’s Okanagan campus. “UBC matches every dollar raised at the event and I’m delighted to see that, together, we have raised more than $850,000 for the scholarship fund. The community support for UBC Okanagan students is truly inspiring.”

To report a typo, email: edit@kelownacapnews.com.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Number of Kelowna-linked COVID-19 cases grows to 159

Interior Health reported four new cases region-wide on Friday, 18 remain active

Okanagan, Creston cherry and apple farms in need of workers

The worker shortage is due to the COVID-19 restrictions on international travel

New team focuses on troublesome Kelowna properties

Recently, a property owner was handed six tickets amounting to over $2,500

Police watchdog deems Kelowna RCMP not responsible for man’s death

The man spoke to police after a car crash before leaving on foot; he was found dead six hours later

Central Okanagan adds 3,600 jobs in July: Statistics Canada

The region’s unemployment rate decreased by 0.2 percentage points to 10 per cent in July

53 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths cap off week of high infection rates in B.C.

Roughly 1,500 people are self-isolating because they either have COVID-19 or have been exposed to it

VIDEO: U.S. Air Force pilot does fly-by for B.C. son amid COVID border separation

Sky-high father-son visit plays out over White Rock Pier

3 Vancouver police officers test positive for COVID after responding to large party

Union president says other officers are self-isolating due to possible exposure

New mothers with COVID-19 should still breastfeed: Canada’s top doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam made the recommendation during World Breastfeeding Awareness Week

Collapse of Nunavut ice shelf ‘like losing a good friend:’ glaciologist

The ice shelf on the northwestern edge of Ellesmere Island has shrunk 43 per cent

‘It’s just my job’: Off-duty Peachland paramedic saves choking girl downtown Penticton

Family vacationing in Penticton assisted by off-duty paramedic, who helps save 13-year-old

Vandals target North Okanagan camper

COVID-19 ‘No camping’ warnings sprayed on local camper

Pup stolen from Vernon temporary shelter

Nicola Sanders hopes to spread the word to get Nala home to her son, the rightful owner

Evacuation alert for 43 homes near Dry Lake fire rescinded

Fire status changed to Under Control, crews remain on site patrolling and extinguishing hot spots

Most Read