RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – Canada’s top Paralympic cyclist put on quite the performance in Rio on Friday, turning a near catastrophic 15th place finish into a career defining moment.
Tristen Chernove, winner of a Paralympic gold, silver and bronze already in 2016, fell out of contention early in the men’s C1-2-3 road race, but displayed the heart expected of a Paralympic champion, by prevailing and finishing the race.
Everything was going according to plan, as Chernove said, limping into the press mixed zone with his jersey torn and his left arm in a sling.
He was among the top medal contenders as the pack reached the final corner of the first lap.
As other bikers jockeyed for position and challenged Chernove, he was clipped from the right, causing him to run into the bike on his left at full speed.
“The front tire got taken out and I wasn’t able to save it. At such a high speed all I could do was crash,” the Cranbrook, B.C. native said.
Chernove was quick to dismiss pre-Games speculation of poor course conditions and chalked up the crash to chance.
“The course was fantastic. It was a great course,” the 41 year-old said. “Crashing is part of the sport that you just have to expect. It’s just an unfortunate day for it to be my turn. I really wanted to win here today and felt like I had a really good shot.”
Instead of contending for a fourth medal in Rio, Chernove would lose his opportunity not even 30 minutes into his race.
While several race officials tried to pull him out of the race after learning of his separated shoulder, Chernove was determined to finish.
“I was expecting to absolutely to be in medal contention and maybe even win. But I’m still extremely proud of my effort,” he said. “Not only did I fight my way back, but also I fought my way through the pack of 40 people and moved all the way up to finish in 15th.
“I dug deep to do that. Every time I would pass a group of people it was still rewarding, even though it wasn’t for a win. ”
After finishing the race a respectable 5:38 off the lead, Chernove said he is proud of the effort he put forward not just in this race, but throughout the games, on the track and on the road.
“It has been a wonderful Games for me. Right now I’m caught up in the emotion of being disappointed that I got taken out of contention for this race. This is the race that I actually enjoy the most of all the others,” the first-time Paralympian said.
“There’s nothing more I could have done. I put every ounce of energy I had in there to fight back to 15th. I’m just going to be proud of that.”