Last August, the University of Victoria Vikes and nearby rowing communities were rocked to their cores following the news about Mathew Szymanowski’s (Shims) accident while riding his bike.
Nearly one year later, three of his former teammates from the Vikes men’s rowing program are kick-starting a marathon ride to raise awareness for Spinal Cord Injury B.C. and money for Szymanowski’s treatment and rehabilitation.
“We all felt terrible when the news about the accident broke and we want to help any way we can,” said Sam Horn, a Vikes rower from 2010-15. “Shim always loved riding bikes and talked about doing this ride along the eastern side of the island, so we thought we could take it on and hopefully raise some money for him at the same time.”
At 7 p.m. on July 24, the trio of Cole Glover, Nick Monette and Horn will depart from Port Hardy in an attempt to complete the near 500-kilometre ride in less than 24 hours. A final location and whether or not there will be a celebratory gathering in Victoria upon completion of the ride is yet to be determined. Following behind the riders will be a support car with food, water, warm clothes and safety equipment.
Upon hearing the news of this ride, Szymanowski was beaming.
“I was speechless. The community really stepped up and I can’t believe I have so many good friends,” said Szymanowski. “I am very fortunate to have them. It’s awesome and it’s definitely helping me a ton.”
Szymanowski was out for a ride last summer when he was struck by a vehicle. He suffered two punctured lungs and a severed spinal cord in his neck. The crash left him paralyzed from the neck down. Later this year, Szymanowski will have to travel outside of the country for spinal surgery.
Already with a GoFundMe page established, Monette is using his connection with Jakroo, a cycling apparel company to produce jerseys for the ride. Similar jerseys and buffs are available for purchase with all of the sales donated to Szymanowski’s recovery efforts. Jerseys can be found here. Local companies have also began chipping in portions of their sales to Shim’s Ride.
Szymanowski was born in Kitchener, Ont., where he began rowing with the Cambridge Rowing Club. After excelling with Ridley College in high school, Szymanowski made his way out to UVic in 2014. With the Vikes, he won national titles in 2016 and 2017, before competing with the national team at the 2018 U23 World Championships.
The trio of former Vikes were all in great shape during their time on campus and have maintained an active lifestyle by competing in bike races at an amateur level. In preparation for their ride, they did a trial run in Vancouver, where they did 32 laps of Stanley Park, equalling roughly 300km.
Supporters are encouraged to visit their website or follow the team along on Instagram, @shimsride. On the day of the big ride, passengers in the support car will be posting live videos and a tracker for the ride will become available.
Horn’s team plans to make this an annual event and encourages other athletes to participate in their own Shim’s Ride one day.