2016 Rio Paralympic Games
Cycling was Canada's top-performing sport at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio, Brazil, Sept. 7-18, with nine medals of a total 29 – a record for the nation. Led by Tristen Chernove's three medals, the para-cycling team contributed 31% of Canada's total me
The cycling action in Rio started on the track at the velodrome built expressly for the 2016 Games. Canada's medal windfall began on Day Two of competition with two silvers. Wilson of Edmonton, Alta. collected silver behind Li Zhangyu (CHN) in the men's 3,000-metre C1 Individual Pursuit after qualifying second to Zhangyu, who set a world record. In the final, Wilson was caught, automatically ending the race.
“I rode the fastest I have ever ridden, so I think I can be proud and hold my head high,” said Wilson. “I think it's pretty cool to win the first medal and I hope this opens the floodgates.”
Wilson's words were prophetic, as the team's second silver came shortly after from Chernove of Cranbrook, B.C. in the men's 3,000-metre C2 Individual Pursuit. Chernove finished less than three seconds behind the winner, Liang Guihua (CHN).
Sametz of Calgary, Alta. landed a berth in the ride for bronze after he qualified third in the 3,000-metre C3 competition, but Clifford Eoghan (IRL) bested Sametz when it counted and the Canadian had to settle for a solid fourth. David Nicholas (AUS) won gold.
In other Canadian Individual Pursuit results, Marie-Claude Molnar of Lemoyne, Que. powered to fifth in the women's 3,000-metre C4 contest. Matched in qualifying with world-record holder and eventual gold-medalist Shawn Morelli (USA), Molnar clocked the fifth-fastest time, which was not quite quick enough to move on to the medal rounds.
Nicole Clermont of Laval, Que. finished ninth in the women's 3,000metre C5 Individual Pursuit qualifier and did not advance. Winner Sarah Storey (GBR) set a new world record with a time of three minutes, 31.394 seconds.
Daniel Chalifour of Ste-Therese, Que. and pilot Jean-Michel Lachance of Quebec City, Que. qualified ninth in the men's 4,000-metre B tandem Individual Pursuit. They missed out on the medal rounds, as Great Britain's Steve Bate and pilot Adam Duggleby set a world record in qualifying and went on to secure gold.
Chernove kept the momentum going from the track with an inspired ride in the men's 1,000-metre time trial, setting a new Paralympic record in his C2 category with a time of one minute, 14.716 seconds. After times were factored in the Combined C1, C2 and C3 competition, Chernove was ranked third overall behind the winner, C1 rider Zhangyu, who set a world record in the process. Canada's Wilson finished 15th, followed by Sametz in 17th.
The time trial was the first of the para-cycling road disciplines, held in the seaside Pontal district of Rio de Janeiro. Canadians had a stellar day, scoring five medals in the event.
On a truly hot streak, Chernove won Canada's first cycling gold of the Paralympics in the men's 20km C2 race, completing the course nearly 20 seconds faster than second-place Colin Lynch (IRL). It was Chernove's third medal of the Paralympic Games, after winning silver and bronze in the track competitions.
“You only get these moments so often in life, and I wanted to have a positive outlook and be in the moment, and not let the anxieties or pressures get to me,” said Chernove. “That really happened today, and that made all the difference. I just wanted to have a great bike ride in a beautiful place.”
Wilson added to the hardware count with a silver-medal performance in the men's 20km C1 competition, won by Michael Teuber (GER).
The medals kept coming for Canada, as Moreau snapped up a bronze in the men's 20km H3 competition. Gold went to Vittorio Podesta (ITA).
Sametz went on to pick up another bronze for Canada in the men's 30km C3 event, 19.49 seconds behind rival and gold-medal winner Clifford.
Gautier of Toronto, Ont. collected Canada's final medal of the day with a bronze in the Combined women's 15km T1-T2 time trial. Gautier, the only T1 in the competition, finished 39.47 seconds behind gold-medal winner Carol Cooke (AUS), with silver medalist Jill Walsh (USA) a mere 1.2 seconds faster than Gautier. Fellow Canuck Marie-Eve Croteau took sixth in the event.
In other Canadian results, Molnar finished a strong fifth in the women's 20km C4 and Clermont rode to eighth in the women's C5 time trials. Robbi Weldon and pilot Audrey Lemieux finished seventh, and teammates Shawna Ryan and pilot Joanie Caron finished 13th in the women's 30km B tandem competition, while their male counterparts, Chalifour and Lachance, finished 15th in the men's 30km B contest.
The para-cycling road races were also held in Pontal, on courses that featured the scenic waterfront Av. Lucio Costa, while some categories also tackled the challenging steep, twisty Circuito Grimari.
The highlight of the day for Canada came when Moreau snagged bronze in a six-rider sprint finish in the men's 60km H3 road race. Paolo Cecchetto (ITA) took the victory.
“Yesterday [the time trial] was good – it was my first medal in Paralympics – but I expected better, I thought I could have pushed more. But today, with this bronze, I am ecstatic. I couldn't ask for more today,” said Moreau.
Croteau delivered Canada's top performance in the women's T1-T2 Combined-category road race. Croteau and her teammate, Gautier, finished fourth and sixth, respectively, in the 30km competition won by Cooke. Gautier was the only T1 competitor in the bunch.
“I am very proud of my race,” said Croteau. “I didn't miss it [the podium] by very much, and honestly it had been a while since I last rode in a pack.”
Of her race, Gautier said: “I was the only T1 out there. I was able to stay with them [T2 riders] for a short while and then I was coming back, but the race ended before I could get to them.”
Canada's team leader, Chernove, overcame a crash in the Combined men's 71.1km C1, C2 and C3 road race, finishing 15th overall and third C2. In the lap-one tumble, Chernove suffered a separated shoulder and a damaged bike, but he persevered to complete his race.
Despite his mishap, Chernove, said, “My front-derailleur cable was broken and I had no front shifting, so I only had my small chainring for the whole race and had to spin at a really high rate the whole time. But I fought my way back to 15th, so I'm really proud of my effort and had to dig deep.”
Steffen Warias (GER), a C3 rider, captured the gold medal. Canadians Wilson and Sametz did not finish.
Canadian women's B tandem squad riders Weldon of Thunder Bay, Ont. and her pilot Lemieux of Alma, Que. were the top finishers for Canada on the final day of cycling competition, pedaling to fifth place in the women's 69km event.
“It was a very good race, we were both super-pleased,” said Weldon. “After all our hill training, the hills felt much easier and we were able to stay with the climbers, which was one of our goals. To finish top-five . . . we are super-happy with that.”
Their teammates Ryan of Saskatoon, Sask. and Caron of Rimouski, Que. finished 12th as the Polish duo of Iwona Podkoscielna and Aleksandra Teclaw earned the gold medal.
Chalifour and Lachance did not finish after a crash in the men's 99km B tandem event, which was won by Vincent ter Schure and Timo Fransen of The Netherlands.
“We were in the top five or six after the first big climb, but then on the descent, our front wheel exploded. We were both a bit injured in the crash, so we decided that we could not finish the race,” said Lachance.
Molnar finished 16th in the women's 72km C4, C5 road race after bravely riding in a breakaway for the first hour. Clermont did not finish due to a crash.
“All in all, we started off with a goal of three medals when we started the quad after London [2012 Paralympic Games], and we tripled that goal. Midway through the quad, we upped our goals, but we never thought that nine medals would have been possible,” said Landry of the squad's historic Paralympic Games showing.
Tristen Chernove led the Canadians with an impressive medal haul, including gold, silver and bronze medals.
(above) Charles Moreau added a second bronze to his medal tally in the men’s 60km H3 road race. (left) Shelley Gautier was sixth in the women’s T1 2 road race. (above) Marie-Eve Croteau (front) was just off the podium, finishing fourth in the women's T1 2 road race. (left) Robbi Weldon and her pilot Audrey Lemieux were the top finishers for Canada in the women’s 69km B road race, finishing fifth.