Posted by Editoress on 04/2/18
We published a profile of Hugo Barrette prior to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, so this is an updated version to include the past 18 months. At the Games, Hugo will be a member of the Sprint squad, competing in the Sprint, Keirin and Team Sprint. He also competed at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, his first major Games.
Hugo was born in Cap-Aux-Meules, on the remote Îles de la Madeleine in the Gulf of St Lawrence. Now 26, he took up cycling in 2009 as a Junior after first playing hockey. He was the first male Olympic athlete from the Îles de la Madeleine (Marie-Huguette Cormier is the first athlete from the Island, in fencing at the 1984 and 1988 Games). In 2011 he participated in his first world championships and has risen through the ranks of track cycling steadily.
By 2013, Hugo was beginning to garner international results, beginning with a silver medal at the Pan Am Championships in the Team Sprint, where the team set a new national record. In that 2013-14 World Cup season he finished fourth in the Keirin at the World Cup in Guadalajara, Mexico, the first Canadian man in 20 years to record a top-10 result. He finished the season ranked 14th in the world. He was also part of the Team Sprint squad that finished fourth at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, and took a silver medal at the Pan Am Championships.
2015 proved to be a year of extreme highs and lows. At the Pan Am Games in Milton, Ontario, he won gold medals in the Sprint and Team Sprint, and bronze in the Keirin. However, in training before the start of the first World Cup of the 2015-16 season, in Cali, Colombia, Hugo suffered a horrific crash, when he went through the guardrail at the top of the track at high speed. He was knocked unconscious and sustained two broken lumbar vertebrae, a broken nose, facial lacerations, a neck dislocation and severe contusions throughout his body."
Remarkably, he was back training on the track in three weeks, as he fought to attain the world ranking he needed to attend the Olympics. He did that just 81 days after his crash, with a silver medal in the Keirin at the Hong Kong World Cup. Unfortunately, his lack of results in the previous two World Cups as he recovered from his crash made it impossible for Canada to qualify in the Team Sprint, and for Hugo to qualify in the Sprint.
"It was pretty cool to be the first male Olympian from Îles de la Madeleine. I'm super proud of coming from this Island. I had to leave the Island to pursue my goals and dreams, but everyone has always been at my back to support me since the beginning. That's the people of the Island; it's not about being the first or the second, it's just the pride of being from there."
"Definitely  was quite a rollercoaster year. Starting from a high of getting two gold medals at the Pan Am Games in front of my family and the country was a really great moment. And then I was going to Cali for the first World Cup, hoping to win and thinking I was going to win with the legs I had ... and then I crashed pretty hard. It made the season pretty complicated and stressful. Before that I was pretty sure to qualify in both the Keirin and the Sprint. So I missed one World Cup and the second one was my first race back and I was only 13th in the Keirin and had no result in the Sprint. So I had to show up in Hong Kong in such good shape, and I knew I had to do well. Not only to qualify for the Olympics, but to make into the Worlds. So that's what I did."
"I always perform well under pressure and that was my chance. Everyone was looking and wanted to see what I had, and I went over there with the same mentality that I had at the Pan Am Games. Hong Kong was the race of the year for me. I finished second by a tire width ... it's something I'm really proud about. There's not too many moments in my career that I can say I'm really proud, but this is one of them. It took so much out of me, that three months of not even thinking about anything, not allowing myself to think about what had happened, just focussing on winning and that Olympic spot."
"I learned that I need to focus on one specific race every three or four months, and that race is going to be amazing. But it requires so much out of me that at Worlds, mentally I didn't have that do-or-die attitude. In any sprint event you need that. Match sprinting is like boxing - you need to know you are going to win, and it's the same in the Keirin. When you come to the line you have to be confident that you are the absolute best and you are going to win. Otherwise, even if you have the legs, you are not going to make it. At that's what happened at Worlds, I was just drained. I was still training, but that desire of winning at absolutely any cost wasn't there."
Hugo missed making the second round of the Keirin in Rio by one spot, finishing 13th overall.
Rio Olympic Games, 2016
"It was disappointing," admitted Barrette. "I had the legs and some amazing training going into this. At the end of the day, I had two hard rides, but I can't attribute my defeat to the draw. It came down to bad decisions, or more correctly, the lack of decisiveness by me. I didn't race like I should have."
"It's a big disappointment, but knowing where I came from [injury]; was a hard season. So I need to remind myself of that. I was so close to not even being [at the Olympics], so at least I had a chance to go for a medal. I cherish that and I'm proud of myself for making it [to Rio]."
Since the Olympic Games, Barrette has won the Pan Am Sprint title  and swept the 2017 national championship sprint events [Sprint, Keirin and Team Sprint]. He finished 11th in the Sprint at the 2017 world championships, and 20th at the recent 2018 world championships in the same event. He was fourth and sixth in the Sprint at World Cup competition. In the Keirin, he was 21st at the 2017 world championships and tenth at the 2018 Worlds. He also won the silver medal at the Pan Am Championships and finished top-10 in two World Cups. He is currently ranked sixth in the world for the Keirin.
Team Sprint, 2017 Cali Track World Cup
Men's Sprint , 2017 Cali Track World Cup
Track World Cup Los Angeles, 2017
2017 Track World Championships, Hong Kong
2017 Milton World Cup
2018 Track World Championships, Netherlands
"I'm trying something new, as far as preparation, for these Commonwealth Games. Previously I didn't have the chance to do an optimal preparation for a big Games. It's a slow build up with a big taper. This time, I have the form and the build up. I've seen the results in the Keirin, but for the Sprint I think there are still good things to come; I have to put the puzzle together for the right place at the right moment. If I can show up with my best legs on the day, I can compete with anyone in the world."
For Brisbane, the team will have a chance to do the Team Sprint, which they haven't been able to do in international competition since before Rio.
"I've always been a big fan of the Team Sprint, I love the event. I see the potential with our team [Hugo plus Stefan Ritter and Patrice St-Louis Pivin], and on paper, we have the talent and the brute force to compete on the world stage. Now we need to do it on the stage. It's coming together. It's good to have individual performances, but it's good to have the team event to lift everyone up and make them better."
This will be Hugo's fourth major Games, following the 2014 Commonwealth's, 2015 Pan Am's and Rio in 2016.
"My perspective on a major Games is ... that's what it is all about. That's where the fun is, that's where the biggest event is. I love the feeling and the excitement when you are in the Village and meeting other sports. That's when you realize you've made it as an athlete ... you deserve your chance to go for the big titles. I made sure that the guys know that it is not just another race; you cannot kid yourself and think 'it's just another race'. Just be excited about the opportunity."
"My first Commonwealth Games were great; I just loved it so much and I realized why athletes can wait up to four years just to do that one race. It's such a thrill, and any athlete should have the chance to experience it."
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