Alex Hyndman is ready to get the cold shoulder in Tokyo’s sweltering heat.
The 30-year-old from Blenheim is on Canada’s para-cycling team, which turned heads at the 2016 Rio Paralympics by winning nine medals.
“I notice the riders keep an eye on us quite a bit more. They don’t count us out when we show up to a World Cup or a worlds. I’ve heard the coaches mention that some nations aren’t as friendly anymore,” Hyndman said with a laugh.
Hyndman and fellow first-time Paralympian Joey Desjardins are joined on the Canadian men’s H3 hand-cycling team by two-time Rio bronze medallist Charles Moreau. All have won World Cup medals.
Hyndman isn’t sure how competitors view his success.
“We get into a group of riders and all of a sudden no one can speak English,” he said, smiling. “It’s tough to say, but I would imagine people are definitely on the lookout not just for me but for the three of us, for sure.”
He’s scheduled to compete at the Paralympics in the time trial Monday at 7 p.m. ET and the road race Wednesday at 1:20 a.m. ET.
Hyndman’s resume includes a bronze at a 2016 World Cup event in Spain and another bronze at the 2018 world championships in Italy.
This is his eighth year on the national team. Putting on his Team Canada jersey still feels as special as it did the first time.
“I’m extremely honoured to represent our country,” he said. “I’m honoured to represent our country at a World Cup or at a world championship, so to be able to represent it at the Paralympics is definitely going to be a huge moment in my life. Just to take in the experience and the joy of wearing the Maple Leaf on my chest is probably the biggest thing to take away.”
Hyndman grew up playing travel hockey and even skated for the Blenheim Blades in the 2009-10 junior C pre-season.
He was left paralyzed from the midriff down after a car crash just outside Ridgetown on Sept. 24, 2010. He was driving to work when he fell asleep and crashed. He was 19 years old.
He spent the next eight months in and out of hospitals. He was depressed for a long time and lost interest in sports.
When he began riding a recumbent bike in 2011, he just wanted to get out of the house and get in shape. But he fell in love with the sport.
He kept getting faster and stronger. In 2014, he was named to the national team.
“When I got into the sport and realized that I could be competitive, the goal was always to attend the Paralympics or win a world championship,” Hyndman said.
Now that he’s at the Paralympics, he has a new goal: win a gold medal. He’s also looking ahead to the 2024 Paris Games and 2028 Los Angeles Games.
“I’ve always wanted to do Tokyo, get the experience and then do extremely well in the next two. That was always my hope,” he said.
But he said there’s no reason he can’t do well in Tokyo, too.
“I’m going there to medal, but, at the same time, the experience is next to none,” he said. “I guess it’s going to be a little different because COVID puts a damper on everything, so everything’s going to be a lot different than even the next Games, I hope.
“They say the Games are overwhelming with everything – all the other sports, all kinds of athletes there – so it would be nice to get this one out of the way and then the next one you know what to expect.”
The road race takes place on a 13.2-km course that starts and finishes at Fuji International Speedway near Mount Fuji. The time trials, in which cyclists race alone against the clock, will also be on the speedway.
Hyndman’s at his best in the time trials. That’s where he won his World Cup and world championship medals.
“They say if you’re not hurting from when you start to the very end, you’re doing it wrong,” he said. “It’s literally just all out gas right from the start.
“I say, ‘all out gas,’ but there’s a lot that goes into it. There’s times when you need to push and times when you need to slow. For me, I’m one of the bigger guys in the division, so downhill I’m a lot faster than most guys, but … uphill’s going to be my biggest problem.”
He has the Tokyo course on his indoor cycling simulator, so he knows what to expect.
“There’s a huge climb at the end and that’s our main focus, that final climb, because that’s where it’s going to be won or lost,” he said.
Hyndman left for Japan feeling good about his chances. Training has gone well.
“It’s been awesome. Absolutely amazing lately,” he said. “I’ve been hitting a ton of personal-bests. Having the support of not only family and friends but we did a fundraiser here … and seeing everyone from the community of Blenheim and Chatham-Kent showing up and showing their support makes it just that much easier to train and push myself to get that medal.”
Hyndman hasn’t competed in almost two years. His last event was the 2019 world championships, where he placed sixth in the time trial and road race.
While the Europeans have been racing each other, he’s been measuring himself against Moreau and Desjardins when he isn’t home training on roads in Rondeau and Erieau.
“All three of us are pretty well top 10 in the world, so we push each other enough to make up for it, I’d say. But, at the same time, there is no better training than racing, so we really don’t know where we stand,” Hyndman said.