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Canadian Para cyclist Alex Hayward wins 1st world medal with silver in scratch race

Canadian Para cyclist Alexandre Hayward took home his first career world-championship medal on Sunday with silver in the men’s C3 scratch race, the country’s fourth podium finish of the week in Rio de Janeiro.

The Quispamsis, N.B., native crossed the line just behind two-time Paralympic gold medallist Jaco van Gass of Great Britain on the final day of competition at the Rio Olympic Velodrome. Japan’s Masaki Fujita claimed bronze.

Hayward, a former wheelchair basketball player, is building an impressive resumé despite only taking up cycling during the pandemic. He was coming off a breakout performance at last November’s Parapan American Games in Santiago, Chile, where his four-medal haul included gold in both the 3,000-metre individual pursuit and road time trial.

Hayward is aiming to make his Paralympic debut in Paris and previously represented New Brunswick in wheelchair basketball at the Canada Winter Games. While the podium finishes are important, cycling is about so much more for the 27-year-old, who was initially paralyzed after breaking his neck while playing triple-A hockey in 2012.

“The real kind of pivotal piece for me with the cycling has been this full reintegration almost into able-bodied sport,” Hayward told CBC Sports. “I’m getting to join group rides and quote, unquote, feel like a normal person for the first time in a really long time.”

He teamed up with Victoria’s Mel Pemble and Calgary’s Kate O’Brien for the mixed team sprint earlier in the day, which saw the trio finish 12th in the field of 16. Pemble won two medals in Rio, with silver in the 500m time trial and bronze in the multi-event omnium.

Keely Shaw of Midale, Sask., delivered Canada’s other medal with bronze in the individual pursuit.

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