Champions Hayward, Clement lead Canada’s 4-medal haul in cycling at Parapan Am Games

Two Para cyclists reached the medal podium in the same road race for Canada at the Parapan Am Games on Sunday in Santiago, Chile.

Alex Hayward of Quispamsis, N.B., and Calgary’s Mike Sametz earned gold and bronze in the men’s C1-5 time trial.

Hayward stopped the clock in 26 minutes 21.14 seconds, defeating Brazil’s Lauro Cesar by 44.92 seconds. Sametz clocked 27:25.14 for third in the field of 26.

“Mike and I trained for a week in Bromont and we joked it would be nice if we could both get on the podium,” Hayward said. “To do it in the first race is really special.”

Later in the day, reigning men’s T1 (tricycle) road time trial champion Nathan Clement and two-time Paralympian Charles Moreau of Victoriaville, Que., raised Canada’s medal total to eight at these Games. Clement won his race while Moreau grabbed bronze in the H1-5 (handcycle) time trial.

In August, the 26-year-old Hayward was fifth in the C3 road race at the Para world championships in Dumfries, Scotland after not expecting to compete following a month-long battle with mononucleosis.

It marked the best international result at worlds for Hayward, who was sixth in his 2022 debut in Baie-Comeau, Que.

“This was a unique time trial,” Hayward said of Sunday’s event. “Usually when you leave the start-finish area the fans sort of die off a bit but they were all over the course which made it a lot of fun.”

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In 2012, a 16-year-old Hayward was considered a potential pick in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League draft until he broke his neck in a AAA game.

While Hayward can use his arms and legs, all four of his limbs are impaired. The engineering graduate from the University of New Brunswick turned to wheelchair basketball and was a member of the national junior team.

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World bronze medallist in August

Para cycling was a form of cross training for him but he became more serious about the sport during the COVID-19 pandemic and burst on the national and international last year.

Sametz, 27, raced to a bronze medal three months ago at worlds. He also won bronze in the event at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio and was a 2015 Parapan Am silver medallist in Toronto.

“We just arrived here 48 hours ago so this feels really great,” Sametz said about his medal win in Santiago.

Illness and injury kept Sametz out of notably the 2021 Tokyo Paralympics and the three previous world road championships.

He returned earlier this year from Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport, or RED-S, a condition characterized by insufficient energy intake to meet the body’s demands during exercise.

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In August, Sametz collected bronze in the C3 17-kilometre road time trial at worlds in Glasgow, Scotland.

Clement took 2023 world bronze on road

He was born with right hemiplegic cerebral palsy and started biking at 12 years old. Two years later, Sametz began to seriously pursue Para cycling.

Clement of West Vancouver, B.C., won Sunday’s mixed T1-2 race in 15:44.73, nearly 90 seconds ahead of American Dennis Connors (17:14.27). entered these Games having taken world bronze in the road race.

“I’m really happy with the race and the medal,” Clement said. “We just got here so I’m really looking forward to experiencing the Village and the Games atmosphere as we prepare for the road race.”

Clement, the reigning world bronze medallist on the road, was a swimmer at the 2016 Paralympics (he retired two years later) and made a sensational debut in cycling last year, capturing silver medals in the time trial and road race on the World Cup circuit in Quebec City.

Fourteen years ago, the 29-year-old Clement took swimming lessons to help him regain mobility in his left side after suffering a stroke caused by chicken pox at age two.

Moreau posted a time of 31:46.65 on Sunday behind U.S. teammates Ryan Pinney (31:19.05) and Brandon Lyons (31:38.33).

“What I really appreciate about these Games is the opportunity to stay motivated and bring some more race excitement and spirit to the season after the worlds,” Moreau said. 

One of Canada’s top riders at the 2016 Rio Games with two bronze medals, the 41-year-old also brought home two bronze in his 2015 Parapan Am Games debut.

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At this year’s worlds, Moreau missed the podium by 8-100ths of a second in the time trial.

He was a triathlete before a serious car accident left him a paraplegic in January 2008.

Moreau quickly excelled in Para triathlon and captured a world championship silver medal in 2009.

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