An athlete from an early age, Carla Shibley was involved in every sport possible.
But at age 10, her world was flipped upside down. Shibley was diagnosed with Stargardt’s disease, a form of juvenile macular degeneration, leading to progressive vision loss.
Shibley was forced to find something else to do to stay active.
“I got into running and then I was introduced to a paralympic sport called goalball. I’ve been playing that for five years,” said Shibley. “And just last year I was introduced to road and track cycling.”
That’s when a new love was formed.
“It’s an exhilarating feeling, like you can just close your eyes and go down a hill, between 50 and 70 kilometres per hour and not have to see what’s going on and just have the wind blowing in your face,” said the 25-year-old.
“It makes me think I don’t have a disability, I can do whatever I want, no matter the circumstance.”
She uses a tandem bike, which is piloted by former university athlete Lindsay Kopf, who acts as her eyes.
“I probably don’t appreciate enough how much trust they have to have,” said Kopf.
Or how much of a difference she’s making as part of this tandem. If someone doesn’t volunteer their time, athletes like Shibley are stuck on the sideline.
“It feels pretty amazing to help an athlete get out and do a sport that they might not otherwise be able to,” said Kopf. “I went through all this as an athlete myself and now it’s my chance to give back.”
Now in her second year on the bike, Shibley still has an outside chance of qualifying for the Paralymic Games in Rio, however she needs an upgrade.
“I have an illegal bike. My bike has disc breaks and in para world that is not allowed,” said the dual sport athlete. “My goal is to get a race-ready carbon-fibre bike and that costs $15,000. I started a GoFundMe page and I’ve raised just under $5,000.”
In the meantime, the training continues and she hopes to inspire others with her journey.
“No matter your limitations, don’t let it hold you back,” said Shibley. “When you have a disability, you know, there’s a stigma where you’re pushed back, but you can look past your disability and be just like any able body athlete.”