Zac Shaw's Commonwealth journey means more than just glory

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·3-min read
Zac Shaw is competing for Team England at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
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Zac Shaw learnt the hard way that there is much more to life than sport.

The 26-year-old visually impaired sprinter from Grimsby felt bereft after missing out on the Tokyo Paralympics, a disappointment that was put in perspective by even more devastating news.

His mum was also diagnosed with brain cancer last year. But after she was given, all clear a few months ago, Shaw promised that he would bring home a Commonwealth Games medal.

And while it was not the colour he wanted; Shaw delivered for his mum at Alexander Stadium by claiming an extra special silver in the T11/12 100m final as she cheered him on.

“I wanted the gold; I’m not going to lie. Last year I missed out on Tokyo, I was the first reserve which was tough, and my mum was diagnosed with brain cancer last year,” he said.

“She got cleared of cancer a few months ago so I promised her that I would bring her a medal, I did promise her the gold, but silver is good. I got told she was cancer free in May.

“After chemotherapy you must reintegrate slowly so it’s only now that she’s able to live a normal life. So, to go out there and share that moment with her was special.”

The para-athlete, who has a rare genetic eye disease called stargardt syndrome, crossed the line in 10.90 seconds as South African Jonathan Ntutu pipped him to the top step.

But Shaw was emphatic when asked whether the last year has been a weight on his mind.

“You know what, not really,” Shaw said. “Last year when I missed out on Tokyo, I was like - it can go one of two ways, I can either fall off and be in my sorrows or I can bounce back.

“I can remember that sport is bigger than the Paralympics or the Olympics and there’s always more to it. I knew I had this chance in my mind which is why I wanted the gold.

“I did my best and silver was good today. Jonathan who won it is a great athlete so I’m proud of him for backing that up too and it’s only two years until the Paralympics.

“I missed out on Rio and missed out on Tokyo so hopefully third time lucky.”

Shaw also believes he is now much better equipped mentally to compete at the highest level, having recovered from his Tokyo setback to show his class on the international stage.

“Honestly, missing out on Tokyo completely broke me,” he added. “It really did break me. All my friends were there so to be sitting at home watching it was really, tough.

“But like I always say, in sport you must be resilient and every year there’s something to aim for so I’m proud that I could have this, and it does make up for it.

“Being in the T12 class that I’m in, only four people make the final so it’s tough. To make a semi-final is almost like a final with only eight people in it. When you make a final, it’s tough.

“It’s been hard for me to have the mental belief to believe I can make a final and compete with these guys, but I think now I’m at a point where I believe I can get on that podium.”

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