Gary Longhi, Montreal-born Paralympic cycling champion, dies at age 56

Canadian flag bearer Gary Longhi reacts as he carries his country's flag during the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games in Sydney Wednesday October 18, 2000. Gary Longhi, a four-time Paralympian and Canada's flag-bearer for the opening ceremonies of the 2000 Sydney Paralympics, has died at the age of 56. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Rob Griffith

Montreal's Gary Longhi, a four-time Paralympian and Canada's flag-bearer for the opening ceremonies of the 2000 Sydney Paralympics, has died at the age of 56.

The Canadian Paralympic Committee announced Longhi's death Friday.

The road cyclist competed in the 1988, 1992, 1996 and 2000 Games, winning gold and bronze in '96 in Atlanta and silver in '92 in Barcelona.

The Montreal native was the first Paralympic athlete to be inducted into the Canadian Cycling Hall of Fame in 2017.

Ahead of his induction Longhi said that he cherished the camaraderie of cycling for the Canadian team.

"Sometimes in society I feel like an outsider," he said. "On the bike I'm normal. Everything is smooth, not as harsh as usual. It's freedom for me."

Longhi took up elite-level cycling as part of his rehabilitation following a 1983 motorcycle crash that nearly claimed his life and left him in a coma for three months. His brain injury qualified him for Para cerebral palsy category of competition.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 3, 2020.

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