Shay McNicol started swimming, at the age of five, as a member of the Brantford aquatic team and became the first child to swim a 5000m distance, non-stop, in a swim-a-thon.
At age 13 she competed at the Canadian National Trials in 1986 and smashed the Canadian age group record. Shay qualified for the Canadian National Youth Team. Travelling with the Canadian National Youth Team, Shay competed in Darmstadt West Germany, where she won gold medals in the 100m and 200 m butterfly, 400m individual medley, a bronze in the 200m individual medley and silvers in the relays.
The following year, in 1987, Shay qualified for the Pan American games. She travelled with Team Canada to Indianapolis, Indiana and competed in the games winning a bronze medal in the 200m butterfly. Shay went on to compete in the 1988 Olympic Trials for Seoul, South Korea, placing 5th.
Shay worked hard and was proud to represent Brantford for 3 years as a member of the Canadian National Swim Team training under Mark Fellnor for many years. She retired in 1989.