BAIE-COMEAU, Que. – Sébastien Travers, the head coach of Canada’s national Para cycling team, is excited about some new talent that has emerged on his squad this summer.
Two new riders, developed in other sports, have unexpectedly grabbed the attention.
One is Nathan Clement of West Vancouver, a 2016 Paralympian in swimming, who grabbed silver medals in the T1 (tricycle) time trial and road race last week in his international debut on the World Cup circuit in Quebec City. He did same here on Thursday and Saturday at the 2022 Para Cycling Road World Championships.
The other is Alexandre Hayward of Quispamsis, N.B., a former member of the national junior wheelchair basketball team. He was the C2 time trial champion in Quebec in his stunning debut then sixth here.
The instant success by Hayward and Clement is timely for Travers with notable names missing in Baie-Comeau. Four-time Paralympic medallist Tristen Chernove of Cranbrook, B.C., has retired, and other Paralympic medallists Ross Wilson and Michael Sametz are taking a pause or re-evaluating their careers.
‘’Nathan and Alexandre came to us with an athletic base and a hard work ethic,’’ said Travers. ‘’So we knew they had potential. We’ve seen them develop over the last two years. They are very powerful athletes. The results don’t surprise us, and we know they can have a lot of success.’’
Clement was seventh in the 50 fly at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio. He eventually retired from the sport. In 2020 he did a 1,000 km trek on his bike through B.C., and it ignited his competitive passions again. Thus began his Paracycling journey though injuries to his hip and ankle set him back months in his development.
‘’It’s been a lot of pushing through injuries,’’ said Clement, diagnosed with a stroke at age two which affects his left side. ‘’It’s been a staggered training period but I have great support from the coaches and teammates that’s helped me get to this point.’’
Hayward, 25, is a former member of the national junior wheelchair basketball team. It’s been 10 years since he broke his neck in a AAA hockey game, just weeks before the QMJHL draft.
‘’I was just having a lot of fun riding my bike and I just stuck with it,’’ said Hayward, a chemical engineering student at the University of New Brunswick. ‘’To show up to your first event and get a win was a surreal feeling. I had no idea what to expect and I enjoyed that moment.’’
Travers says he and his staff keep an eye on athletes who retire from their sport in addition to its structured developmental programs such as NextGen.
‘’Transfer of talent is very important for us,’’ said Travers. ‘’Para cycling is a sport in which riders can reach their peak at an older age than some other sports. So it’s great for us to have the chance to tap into that.’’