Bar­rette re­turns to scene of grue­some crash

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - LORI EWING

TORONTO — The pho­tos are grue­some. Hugo Bar­rette slumped over un­con­scious, his rag-doll limbs bent un­der him awk­wardly and his face crushed against the con­crete. Bar­rette on a stretcher, his face a soupy mess of blood and ripped flesh.

The 25-year-old cy­clist from Iles-de-la-Madeleine, a tiny Que­bec ar­chi­pel­ago in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, had crashed in World Cup train­ing in Cali, Colom­bia, in the fall of 2015, roaring through a rail­ing at 80 kilo­me­tres an hour.

He’ll race in Cali again for the first time this week in a World Cup he said is a vic­tory be­fore he even sets his two wheels on the track.

“It’s part of my story,” Bar­rette said. “I’ve never seen it as such a bad thing. It’s just part of my story, and to get past that, I need to go back there and per­form at my best and just show what I got, as I’ve in­tended to do be­fore I crashed.”

Bar­rette was com­ing off a break­out three-medal per­for­mance at the Pan Amer­i­can Games, and look­ing for­ward to the Rio Olympics when he crashed in a train­ing ses­sion. The force snapped the steel rail­ing in two, and left Bar­rette with two bro­ken ver­te­brae, a shat­tered nose, bro­ken teeth, head lac­er­a­tions and a dis­lo­cated shoul­der. His nose and shred­ded lip re­quired plas­tic surgery. Had he not turned his head at the last se­cond, he be­lieves he’d be dead. Bar­rette’s screams are au­di­ble in the video of the scene, which was so trau­matic na­tional coach Erin Hartwell con­sid­ered quit­ting. Bar­rette doesn’t re­mem­ber much, say­ing “Maybe it’s a good thing that I lost that part of the story.”

Also a good thing: the mo­ti­va­tion of mak­ing the Olympic team had Bar­rette back on his bike just two weeks later. There was no time to be hes­i­tant.

And if noth­ing else, the crash made him take stock of his ca­reer. He paused just long enough to ap­pre­ci­ate how far he’d come.

“Since I was 16 years old, I never stopped, just all out all the time just to im­prove to be­come the best,” Bar­rette said. “I be­lieve I reached an amaz­ing level, a dream-like level, win­ning every­thing at Pan Ams (two gold and a bronze), I was liv­ing the dream that I had as a lit­tle boy.

“But since I was so an­chored in that world, I never re­ally re­al­ized what I’ve ac­com­plished. So that crash re­ally made me open my eyes, and made me re­al­ize how much I love the sport and how lucky I am to do this. And that’s part of why I re­cov­ered so fast, be­cause I didn’t want to give up at such an amaz­ing time.”

Bar­rette claimed his first World Cup medal, a sil­ver, in Hong Kong just 81 days af­ter his crash. He also qual­i­fied for Rio, where he fin­ished 13th in the keirin.

Bar­rette will be joined on Canada’s men’s team in Colom­bia by Ste­fan Rit­ter of Ed­mon­ton, Joel Ar­cham­bault of St-Chris­tine, Que., and Patrick St-Louis-Pivin.

Cal­gary’s Kate O’Brien and Laura Brown leads a women’s team that in­cludes Amelia Walsh of Ayr, Ont., Steph Ro­orda of Van­cou­ver, Kin­ley Gib­son of Ed­mon­ton and Ari­ane Bon­homme of Gatineau, Que.

Bar­rette has noth­ing spe­cial planned for Cali, no plans to take a close look at the crash site.

“I’m just go­ing to do my thing, go on the track and try to go fast,” he said. “Yes, there’s this whole crash and the come­back but there’s still a race to do and it’s still a World Cup, I still want to win. And that’s such a good chal­lenge and a step­ping stone in my ca­reer where: hey, if I can go over there fo­cused and per­form de­spite all of this, that’s go­ing to be a great ex­pe­ri­ence. It’s go­ing to help me as an ath­lete but as a per­son too.”

CHRIS YOUNG, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Hugo Bar­rette says he has noth­ing spe­cial planned for Cali, where he suf­fered a grue­some crash in 2015.

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