OTTAWA – Before he attended a Paralympian Search, Kyle Barber never thought that one day he would be sporting Team Canada colours in international competition.
But last month, there was the 27-year-old from Sudbury, Ont., racing for Canada at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships, held in Prince George, B.C. He hopes his experience at the worlds will be the springboard to march into the Opening Ceremony at the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games in Beijing.
Barber’s Paralympic journey was launched at the Canadian Paralympic Committee’s Paralympian Search event in 2016 in Toronto. A recreational hockey player, Barber saw the announcements for the event on Facebook and made the decision to attend.
A one-day athlete identification event, Paralympian Search is designed to test participant aptitudes to excel in various Paralympic sports and introduce people with disabilities to more sport opportunities. The goal is to discover athletes who could potentially one day represent Canada at the Paralympic Games.
The results for Barber were unexpected.
‘’I was a little nervous going into the Paralympian Search,’’ he said. ‘’I’d been out of competitive sport for a couple of years.
When I saw the results from the testing I was surprised. And even more when I saw the interest from the coaches attending since I was a bit older and there were a lot more younger potential athletes. Still I was recommended for Para nordic skiing and Para cycling.’’
Barber was born with underdeveloped and missing fingers on both hands. Due to his impairment he is unable to ski using poles, which places increased emphasis on his skiing technique and equipment.
He had never done cross country skiing before but was interested in biathlon due to his familiarity with rifles as an avid hunter and fisherman.
‘’I always played hockey,’’ Barber said. ‘’I can hold a stick but because of the power you need in cross country the pole would just pop out of my hand. Balance is always an issue for me but it’s getting better. My biggest issue is the kick but we’ve figured out what works best for me.’’
After Paralympian Search, Barber was invited to a spring camp hosted by Cross Country Ontario in Duntroon. From there, he was recommended to the national team program. He headed to Canmore, Alta., to further explore his potential.
In November 2017, he went back west for his first World Cup competition then made his first trip overseas for a World Cup in Germany. Back home meanwhile, he moved from Stirling, Ont., to Sudbury, Ont., so he could have better winter conditions in which to train. He currently works for the Roads Department for the City of Sudbury.
‘’Being from Southern Ontario, there was never that kind of opportunity to try anything or see anything about Para sport until the Paralympian Search came along.
‘’My advice to those attending the next one is try it all, give it your best effort and network with the sports reps. You just never know what might happen and what opportunities might arise.’’
The next Paralympian Search is set for April 6 at the Centre Sportif in Gatineau, Que. For more information, please visit Paralympic.ca/paralympian-search.