Canadian Cyclist

 

July 3/20 16:56 pm - Tribute to Gary Longhi


Posted by Editoress on 07/3/20
 

We reported earlier that Canadian Paralympic cyclist Gary Longhi passed away yesterday [Here;]. Here is a tribute from two of his friends - Randy Ferguson and Louis Barbeau:

Born in Montreal, Gary Longhi's life abruptly changed on August 11, 1983. Following a terrible motorcycle accident, he fell into a three month coma, he would have to learn to eat, speak ... live, and all this at the age of only 19! What was to follow was a long rehabilitation process. This "True Italian" as he liked to say, took on cycling in 1986. While on a family vacation to Cuba, he fell in love with the freedom riding procured him. He would later state "it makes me feel slick and smooth" He then and there decided to start racing!

At his first Paralympic Games in Seoul, in 1988, he finished 4th and 6th in the two events he entered. During his second Paralympic Games in Barcelona, in 1992, he would go on to win the silver medal in the five kilometre time trial. However, his best performances would come at the 1996 Paralympic Games, in Atlanta. He would collect two medals, the bronze in the road race and the Paralympic title and the gold medal in the individual time trial. Sydney 2000 would be his last Paralympic Games as an athlete, he had to settle for 9th place in the time trial, due to respiratory issues. He finally retired in 2001 because of persistent health problems. In addition to his four participations at the Paralympic Games as an athlete, Gary garnered numerous successes on the international stage.

However, what distinguished Gary Longhi from other athletes, Olympians or Paralympians, was his unique sense of humor, combined with his wholehearted kindness, generosity and resilience. Hence, it is therefore no surprise that everyone who has crossed paths with Gary appreciated him and still remember him for such. It is also no surprise that Gary's career was recognized on numerous occasions. Amongst these recognitions, Gary was granted the sportsmanship award at the 1991 Canadian Forester Games, and was selected as the flag bearer for the Canadian Paralympic team at the opening ceremonies of the 2000 Paralympic Games. In 2003, he received the commemorative Jubilee Medal from her Majesty Queen Elisabeth on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of her reign. This distinction was granted to Canadians whose contribution in their respective fields was judged remarkable.

In 2004, he became the first para-cyclist to be inducted into the FQSC Hall of Fame. In the same year, he traded his bike in to be one of two Athlete Services Officer on the Canadian team, mission staff at the Athens Paralympic Games. A role he shared with the Honourable Carla Qualtrough (Acting President of the Treasury Board). Also, a role that suited him perfectly, in view of his multiple Games experience and a role in which he distinguished himself. Finally, in 2017, Cycling Canada inducted Gary Longhi into the Canadian Cycling Hall of Fame, a first once again for a para-cyclist.

Throughout his career and his entire life, Gary Longhi has shown resilience and has inspired many. It goes without saying that the Canadian Paralympic movement owes a part of its growth and success to Gary Longhi. And without a doubt, the world was a much better place because of him. Afflicted with an incurable cancer which was diagnosed only a month ago, Gary's spirit remained unwavering. As this was going to be his last race, he decided that the date he would leave this world, would be the date on which he came into this world 56 years ago - July 2nd. For those who had the privilege to know Gary and spend time with him in the last few weeks, unsurprisingly, he was the one doing the consoling and the one reminding us of all great memories we shared over the years.

We lost a great soul but his memory and legacy will live on for many years.

Ride in Peace Gary

 

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