Toni Shaw and David Boyd

Making waves

Toni Shaw eyes Tokyo 2020 thanks to state-of-the-art prosthetic

Aged just 15, Toni Shaw has already made serious waves in the world of para swimming, but she could be about to get even faster with the help of cutting-edge technology.

The Aberdeen swimmer had an excellent 2018, competing for Scotland at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and winning six medals at the Para Swimming European Championships in Dublin, including two gold.

Toni has continued her incredible form this year. She set new Scottish records in the 100m freestyle S9 and 50m freestyle S9 and a new British record for the 100m butterfly S9 at the Scottish National Open Championships at Aberdeen Sports Village.


Like her fellow swimmers Toni has a very different life to most 15-year-olds, training for three hours in the pool and the gym before going to school some days.

Toni Shaw

Toni's right hand never fully formed, and until recently she had no way of doing many of the upper-body exercises that are so important for a swimmer. Her conditioning work with sportscotland senior physical preparation coach David Boyd was restricted as a result. 

New possibilities

David set out to look for solutions and eventually found a solution with the help of Sarah Day of the National Centre for Prosthetics and Orthotics in Glasgow.

Toni now has a state-of-the-art prosthetic, made of carbon fibre which can be changed with several different attachments. This allows Toni to do exercises such as press-ups, weights, pull-ups, handstands and hanging exercises.

David explained: “With Toni we hit a bit of a plateau in terms of what we can manage for her in the gym. I started doing a bit of research myself into prosthetics to see what was available and what we could maybe fashion ourselves.

“We started going through the process of using some readily available things like deadlift straps, but there were still limitations.

“There was obviously an asymmetry limitation from left to right and limits to what she could manage in terms of load.

"The prosthetic is going to open a lot of doors in terms of what we can manage with Toni in the gym now, we will really be able to ramp up what her training looks like.”

David Boyd and Toni Shaw

Toni can now leave no stone unturned as she steps up her bid, with support from the sportscotland institute of sport, to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, and she thinks her recent major event experience can help her achieve her dream.

She said: “Last year was my first major competitions at the Commonwealth Games and at the Europeans.

"It was great to get some experience racing against high-quality athletes.

“I loved racing in front of the big crowds, it was a bit nerve-racking but once you get going it is really exciting. Tokyo is the main goal, I definitely want to qualify for that. It would be crazy to compete at a Paralympics at my age but hopefully I can make it.

“I’ve been supported by the sportscotland institute of sport for a while now. There’s so much support with David and the gym, there’s nutritional help and literally anything you could want, you can access it.”

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