Shane Blows in his high-performance hand bike. Photo by Katy Gosset/RNZ.
"One door closes and another opens."
So says Motueka man, Shane Blows, about the accident that broke his back but ultimately led him to the sport of para or hand cycling.
In 1997 Shane was working on an orchard mower when it fell off a fork lift, leaving him with a low level spinal injury.
Whilst recuperating in hospital he received a visit from a friend and some useful advice.
"He said there's two ways you can go, bro, you can either go down the drugs and drink or you can just get on with life and I just chose [to] get on with life.
Shane says that’s how "wheelies' talk to each other without "airs or graces".
"So I thought about it and thought, "well I'm a doer" so I decided to just keep going".
Shane Blows is the manager of Workbridge's Upper South Island Hub by Katy Gosset/RNZ.
Widening the Workplace
He joined Workbridge, an organisation that places people with disabilities into employment.
"So, from there, life kind of began in a wheelchair and I just looked forward, not back."
Work experience led to case management and eventually to management itself and Shane now has eight staff from Greymouth to Blenheim.
He enjoys educating employers about what his organisation and clients can offer and helping people to "get off the couch [and] get fit".
"It doesn't matter what your situation is. If you're 100 per cent of what you can be then, you know, life is going to be a much more positive experience for you."
Shane says he is an example of what he tells employers and clients.
"I'm just trying to be the best that I can be... I have a great job through Workbridge and a great team, a cool partner, excellent daughter and the cycling is just on top of that."
Discovering a Dream
Shane initially focussed on wheelchair basketball and it wasn't until a year ago that hand cycling became his real passion.
He says, like many people, he used to feel that, whilst life was OK, he was waiting for something.
"I don't know if you've ever had that feeling - like it's all just ticking along and you know that something is coming up but you don't know what it is.
"I think, for me, when I found cycling at this level, its gone for me. It’s taken 42 years to kind of find the one thing that really floats my boat."
Shane now trains on a carbon fibre, high performance hand cycle that weighs roughly the same as a mountain bike
Straps around his waist and legs keep him snug inside the low, aerodynamic vehicle which, he admits, lies very close to the ground, allowing minimal peripheral vision.
"You actually can't see very much, which doesn't sound very good, but you just need to see where you're going."
But he says, because he has two back wheels, motorists give him a wide berth when he's out training.
Shane Blows is ranked 17th in world for hand cycling. RNZ.
Chasing International Success
Now ranked 17th in the world, Shane is headed this month for South Carolina where he'll compete in the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) Para Cycling Road World Championships.
But first he must take on his fellow New Zealander, Brendon Stratton, to determine which of them will compete in the international time trial.
Whatever the outcome of that event, Shane Blows says there'll still be a shot at medals in the road race and team relay.
And he says he'll be spending the next year tweaking his performance to gain his ultimate goal - a spot in the New Zealand Paralympic team for Rio 2016.
Shane spends hours turning over the pedals as part of his winter training regime. Photo: by Katy Gosset/RNZ.
Katy Gosset talks Shane through his training regime in Motueka.