The margin of error for Keely Shaw was razor thin. Thousandths of a second thin, to be exact.
The Midale native was at the Para-Cycling World Track Championships in Milton, Ontario from January 30 to February second. She missed the podium by the slimmest of margins, finishing 75 milliseconds behind the eventual third place finisher, according to the final stats posted in Canadian Cycling Magazine.
"It was an absolutely unreal event," Shaw said. "To be representing Canada on home soil... lots of spectators, more than we're used to seeing. It was great to see all the other countries coming in and competing on our home turf. I know myself and a lot of my teammates, we got a lot of personal bests, a lot of really great performances. Maybe not the results we were looking for but I think it's definitely a good place to be in, heading into the Paralympic Games in seven months time."
It was all at once a gratifying and frustrating weekend for Shaw. Missing out on the bronze medal by an impossibly slim margin was tough, and she almost qualified for the gold medal race as well, finishing just .7 seconds away from qualifying for that race. But she did also post some personal bests and establish herself as unquestionably one of the best in the world.
"It just so happened that I had to pass my competitor in the qualifying round," she said. "That probably cost me close to a second, so that might've been the difference between racing for gold and racing for bronze. And my competitor I was racing in the bronze medal race, she's been world champion in pretty much every discipline for years. I think 2018 was the first year she was dethroned. She's a super strong competitor from the States. I've got a lot of respect for her, so I'm super happy I was able to give her a run for her money."
When the margin of error is so slim as to be measured in hundredths or even thousandths of a second, making that extra small improvement to take a win can be tough. But Shaw says she knows what she has to work on to get better, and that in and of itself is a confidence booster.
"It's going to be my bike handling, and it always has been my bike handling," said Shaw. "I grew up a hockey player so I've got a pretty good engine on me. That's pretty much all I am right now is an engine. I need a lot more experience, I need more practice handling my bike, not only on the track but also on the road... And that's awesome because that's something that's completely within my control."
The official qualification for the Paralympic Games in 2020 won't be announced until summer, but with this performance Shaw has cemented herself as someone who belongs there. A fourth place finish in the world made her one of Canada's standouts at the event.
"All I had to do this weekend was come out and show that I was a contender for a medal. and I think I did just that," she said. "Although nothing is for certain, nothing has been set for sure, I'm super confident I'll be in Tokyo in September."
Shaw expects the official announcement to come in late June or early July.