Cycling tandem Ryan, Caron look to capitalize on late Paralympic invite
Voicemail response yielded 'loud squeals of excitement'
RIO De JANEIRO — When Shawna Ryan received the text on Aug. 16 from Cycling Canada's Arnaud Litou, her immediate instinct was to contact her cycling pilot Joanie Caron.
Ryan described the voicemail reply from Caron as "loud squeals of excitement" in response to the news that they received a late invite to join the Canadian para-cycling team at the Rio Games.
These spots opened up due to the Russian team's ban from the 2016 Paralympics over state-run doping.
For the 41-year-old Ryan, who is visually impaired and sits behind pilot Caron on the tandem bike, the news was a cathartic experience.
"I was telling my colleagues at work that I felt like I finally woke up," said the Saskatoon native. "I was kind of like in limbo, training and waiting and sort of enjoying life. And all of a sudden I was awake, excited and ready to go to the Games."
They never lost a beat in their training routine after not being included on the original 12-member Canadian cycling team in late June. Ryan and Caron knew then they would be the official alternate team that would be sent to Brazil in case there were any tandem disqualifications before the start of the tournament.
"All along we were training as we were going to the Games," said Ryan. "We were not going to get the call and not be prepared."
What is particularly impressive about the Canadians is that they became contenders to make the Canadian team even though they have only been partnered since the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games that August. Ryan competed at the 2008 Paralympic Games as a member of the women's goalball team, while Caron is making her Paralympic debut.
It is fair to say the duo will enter both the time trial and road race competitions with few expectations to earn a spot on the podium. Surprising the para-cycling world would be welcomed, but Caron and Ryan are more focused on the process to executing a good ride.
"We are in the best condition for the type of circuit we are going to be on," said the 31-year-old Caron. "Our expectations are to get the best possible ride and race to the best of our ability and hopefully bring in a good result."
First up on their competitive schedule is the time trial, which is scheduled to begin from Rio's Pontal facility on Thursday at 12:30 p.m., ET.
With files from the Canadian Paralympic Media Consortium