When Pauline Shaw first stepped on the ice in 1979, it wasn’t love at first sight for a sport that has become a passion, instead she found herself hoping the kids zipping past her wouldn’t hit her.
As time passed, Shaw made the ice where she figure skates her second home.
“As long as my body says I can skate, I’m going to skate,” she said.
Shaw, 50, is a member of the Oak Bay Figure Skating Club and recently brought home two gold medals from the Washington Winter Games.
“She went down there and competed in the level three free skate and then the level two dance,” said one of her coaches Kailee Bowman. “She skated absolutely phenomenally and she told me she had an absolute blast.”
Shaw went to Washington as part of the B.C. Special Olympics team.
Her recent gold medals are two in a long line of wins for Shaw. Bowman said Shaw has been skating all over the Island and so far is undefeated.
Bowman and Shaw have been working together since Bowman moved to Victoria.
“When I first met (Shaw) she was very eager to skate and soak everything up like a sponge,” said Bowman. “You could really see the joy of skating in her. She loves to be out there on the ice and calls it her second home, and you pick that up when you’re working with her. It’s really humbling.”
In addition to travelling around Vancouver Island to compete, Shaw, originally from Scotland, has also competed in the World Games in Austria in 1993, where she won gold for figure skating.
“That was a long trip,” said Shaw with a laugh. “It was different to skate with people from all over the world, because normally I just skated with people from B.C. or other parts of Canada, but all of a sudden there were American skaters, and skaters from Russian and France and all over.”
Shaw has been a Special Olympic athlete since 1982, competing in a number of sports including speed skating and rhythmic gymnastics.
Her commitment and passion for sports was rewarded by Special Olympics when she was named the Canadian Female Athlete of the Year in 2007.
“I don’t really feel any pressure to compete,” said Shaw. “I just like going there, skating and having fun. For me that’s why I do it.”
Because Shaw has been skating since 1979 she has seen a lot of changes in the sport and in Special Olympics.
When she returned to skating competitively in 1996, she noticed new levels and skills were added to the competitions.
“It was a little challenging,” she said. “It seemed overwhelming at first, because I was looking at what they were doing on the ice and thinking ‘how are they doing that.’ But when they broke it down, it made more sense.”
Shaw will be competing again in April when she heads to Parksville for the Vancouver Island Series International, and while Bowman, like Shaw, isn’t concerned about coming home with a medal, Bowman said it’s icing on the cake.
“She doesn’t go out there to compete,” said Bowman. “She goes out there to have fun and so when she goes out there to win the gold medal, it’s just an added bonus. She’s just so happy. It’s amazing to see someone who is just so in love with the sport go out there, skate and do so well. It’s really inspiring.”