Hawks compete to save lives

Brittany Shaw isn’t a firefighter or a police officer, but beginning Oct. 2 she will compete to be one of the best lifesavers in the world.

The fourth-year biochemistry/biotechnology student will be competing with the Canadian lifesaving team at Rescue 2010, the World Lifesaving Championships in Egypt.

The competition is divided into three categories in which the national teams will show off their lifesaving skills and techniques including surf/open water, pool and emergency response.

“Lifesaving is a spin-off sport from swimming basically. We race in the water just like swimming,” Shaw said.

Shaw was on the Canadian development team for the sport in the 2009 Commonwealth games in Edmonton, but has never competed on the international stage before.

“You’re there for yourself, but you’re there for your entire country,” she said about competing at this level. “It’s a lot of weight on your back, but at the same time everyone is supporting you and is proud of you.”

Shaw travelled Monday to Ottawa to join the Canadian team and will leave for Egypt on Sept. 27.

Shaw’s favourite event in the competition is the 50-metre manikin carry. In Edmonton, Shaw completed the race – which requires her to swim out 25 metres to a manikin and carry it back 25 metres to shore – in under 41 seconds. That time was good enough to place her 16th in the world. New to competing on the international stage, Shaw has no expectations for placing in Egypt.

“It’d be great to break 40 seconds. I’m working towards best times. Top 16 would be amazing,” she said.

Also traveling to Egypt for the event is Laurier’s associate director of recreation and facilities Pat Kitchen. Kitchen boarded a plane last Thursday to begin work as the Lifesaving Society’s national sport commissioner.

Kitchen has been attending the International Lifesaving Federation (ILS) World Lifesaving Championships since 2002.

“This is a feather in the cap of Laurier,” said director of athletics and recreation Peter Baxter. “You’ve got to invest in people to ensure our skill sets and competencies ensure a good student experience. That’s what our focus is. That’s why we’re here.”

More than just a learning experience for Shaw and Kitchen, Baxter said this type of participation shows the level at which Laurier athletes compete.

“Essentially it’s a recognition of the type of professionals we have in the athletics department,” said Baxter.

The athletics department is not the only department supporting Shaw as she takes two weeks away from her studies to compete.

“All my profs have been so supportive. I need to thank them so much. One prof moved the midterm for the entire class for me,” she said.

It is standard practice at Laurier, but Shaw is grateful for the support she is receiving.

“It’s really nice, because I’m in biochemistry and my classes have about five people so I know my profs and I’m in fourth-year and I’ve known them for a long time,” Shaw said.

Shaw had a lot on her plate as she prepared to leave, also filling out applications to medical schools across the province last week. Rather than take away from her studies, Shaw believes being involved in athletics improves her abilities in school.

“It helps with time management. By doing a sport you get better at school too,” she said.

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