Living With Type 1 Diabetes

Meet the Olympic/Paralympic coach who’s logged 300km to defeat T1D

February 11, 2021

Shaun Caven is an internationally renowned Olympic and Paralympic coach who is currently training the Australian paracanoe team for Tokyo 2021. He is also the father of 8-year-old Liam who lives with type 1 diabetes (T1D). Shaun has recently been participating in JDRF’s Aqua Challenge to raise money for type 1 diabetes research and has logged 300KMs in his quest to raise awareness and funds – an incredible feat by any standards. We caught up with Shaun to learn a bit more about the awe-inspiring work that he does and how he’s helping JDRF #MoveTheNeedle for T1D.

1) You are an internationally renowned Olympic and Paralympic coach. Could you tell us a little about your career and how you ended up training the Australian Paracanoe team for Tokyo 2021?

My name is Shaun Caven and I am originally from Scotland – from a small town in the SW called Castle Douglas. I first developed an interest in water sports when I started kayaking around age 8 through the Cub Scouts. My coach was a Scout Leader at the time and many years later we paddled K2 (Double Kayak) together. I started coaching about age 16 helping young kids at my local club. I then became Scottish National Coach (Voluntary Position). I am fortunate enough to have been a Professional Coach for the last 21 years. During that time I was the Junior and then Olympic Team Coach in the UK before moving to America (Oklahoma City) to coach Team USA (Paralympic & Olympic), Oklahoma City University and the local club team. That experience led to the opportunity to coach the Paracanoe Team here in Australia, we are based in the Gold Coast.

2) What is your favourite thing about paracanoeing or being part of a water sport?

Favourite thing about Paracanoe? The people involved! They are some of the most inspirational people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting and being around. The whole Paralympic movement is a beacon of light that the world sorely needs right now. In terms of the sport, I just love being on the water, getting some exercise, helping others improve and being part of a global community who paddle.

3) You’ve done other fundraising events for JDRF in the past, what was it specifically about the Aqua Challenge that made you want to register?

I have done a couple of JDRF bike rides in the USA and the virtual One Ride challenge here in Australia. When I saw the Aqua Challenge, I knew I had to sign up for it as I can log KMs every day and raise money for JDRF at the same time. I hit the 300KM goal I set from Jan 1 to 31st with a final 10km on the 31st!

4) Can you tell us a little bit about your connection to type 1 diabetes and why you are supporting JDRF to #MoveTheNeedle for T1D?

My connection to JDRF started in July 2014. D-DAY. (Diagnosis Day). My wife Kelly and I took our son Liam to our Local Children’s Hospital Emergency Room. He was in DKA. That’s when we were told that Liam has type 1 diabetes. Like most people, all I knew was that it was something to do with the pancreas and you had to inject insulin and not much more! We had never heard of a pump or glucose monitor. JDRF gave us the basic introduction pack and offered us a contact family to act as Peer Support Mentors. This was more valuable than I ever imagined, which is why we as a family now offer our help to newly diagnosed families.

I am happy to report that Liam is now a full on 8-year-old who enjoys school, swimming, martial arts, the ocean, animals, his dog (Skye) and has just started Freestyle Scooter. He wears a CGM and an Insulin Pump. Liam loves it and it has improved his lifestyle and opportunities to try different activities here in Australia!

5) Is Liam also participating in the Aqua Challenge with you and helping you log in those KMs?

Liam has helped with a few KMs in the back of a double ski. He is still to be fully convinced that kayaking is something he wants to do. But he enjoys looking for fish, rays and all types of birds and bats on the local canal, that we can access directly behind our house.

6) As someone who has reached his target of 300KMs in a month, what is one tip you would give to other participants to meet their own KM targets for this event?

My tip for achieving the KMs to meet your target is to break it down into manageable chunks, set a weekly target and finally log KMs on the JDRF website.