Local athlete Jody Barber has racked up quite a few achievements over the last few years. She represented Canada in the 2010 Paralympics, and last fall, finished third in her age group at the World Triathlon Championships in Budapest. Most recently, she travelled to Ottawa for the Paralympic Excellence Series, an invitational conference put on by the Canadian Paralympic Committee.
Barber lost most of the use of her right arm after being hit by a car while training for the 2006 world triathlon championships. Although she was told she’d never swim or cycle again, much less compete in many sports, within a year she was training on cross country skis. Last year in Budapest she had the chance to finish what she’d attempted to start four years previously.
“I went to another world championship, on the same road bike that I was injured on,” she said. “It was nice to come full circle.”
After picking up the bronze medal in her category, she’s been mentioned by the Paralympic Committee in Ottawa as a potential contender when triathlon is introduced as an official sport in the 2016 Paralympic games, although she hasn’t committed to competing in any more games, and recently resigned from the Canadian nordic team.
Barber said the chance to meet high level paralympic athletes in other sports at the Excellence Series was a highlight of the Ottawa trip for her.
“We all look at each other and we’re all kind of in awe,” she said.
While she wondered how blind skiers can manage to take part in a cross country race by following a guide, they asked how she can ski with only one pole. One of the things she saw reinforced is that, aside from whatever physical disability they might have, paralympic athletes are no different from other high level athletes.
“As far as their drive and determination, and their perseverance, it’s all the same,” she said.
Another highlight for Barber was a solitary experience, going for an early morning run along the Rideau Canal and wandering through the Parliament buildings.
“You feel so Canadian when you do that,” she said.
Barber is now looking ahead to July 10, when she will be returning for her eighth year as the Race Director for the Tyhee Lake Triathlon. Although she has retired from the winter side of the Paralympics, she will continue coaching both high school track, and helping coach young athletes in the Bulkley Valley Nordic Club’s jackrabbit program develop their own passion for sport.
“I think too many young people don’t have a passion for anything,” she said. Coaching is “so fun and so gratifying. It’s a privilege to be involved with kids at that age.”