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Jun 01, 2023


This story appears here courtesy of It is not for use by other media. By Trent Toone, Church News Barry Wilcox was thrilled to recently receive an invitation to compete in

This story appears here courtesy of It is not for use by other media.

By Trent Toone, Church News

Barry Wilcox was thrilled to recently receive an invitation to compete in handcycling for Team USA at the 2023 UCI Para-Cycling Road World Championships this August in Glasgow, Scotland.

Coming earlier this summer, the invitation was especially meaningful for the 44-year-old Wilcox because for the first time ever, the para-cycling worlds will be held in conjunction with the able-bodied world championships and feature all disciplines. The 10-day competition, scheduled for Aug. 3-13, is billed as “the biggest cycling event ever.”

“This is special to me because of my history in cycling,” Wilcox said.

As a 16-year-old, Wilcox was on the path to becoming a professional cyclist and an Olympian, racing against people who would later compete in the Tour de France and other major professional races.

His life changed when Wilcox was in a car accident that left him paralyzed.

Wilcox, a mid-single member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints living in Gilbert, Arizona, reflected on his journey in an interview with the Church News.

“I’ve definitely seen the Lord’s hand in numerous parts of my life,” he said.

Wilcox said he began learning to ride a bike when he was 3 years old. By age 10, he was doing triathlons; within another three years, he was in competitive road cycling.

At age 16, Wilcox had won some national races and was a member of the U.S. Junior National Cycling team. He was close to becoming a professional cyclist and aspired to compete in the Olympics. His future appeared bright.

Driving home one day, after staying up late for a concert the night before, Wilcox fell asleep at the wheel and crashed his vehicle. He woke up three and a half weeks later in a hospital. He said he suffered six skull fractures, quickly adding that no brain damage was a “big-time blessing,” though a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed from the upper chest down. He retained function in the majority of his arms but has weak hands and triceps.

Before the accident, Wilcox had mapped out the next decade of his life around cycling.

After the accident, he was grateful he still had the physical ability to live an independent life but wondered, “Which direction do I go now?”

Learning to become independent, including how to hold utensils, crack eggs, put on socks and manage his personal needs and medical issues, has been a struggle, but he has persevered.

“Learning to navigate your way through life as a quadriplegic is not easy,” Wilcox said. “I can honestly say I had no idea what was in store for me.”

In the years that followed, Wilcox found a new, fulfilling path.

He was an adjunct instructor at Salt Lake Community College. He participated in wheelchair rugby. He went onto graduate school and became a registered clinical exercise physiologist — helping people maximize their abilities.

“It’s a lot of fun to help people figure things out when it comes to diet, exercise lifestyle and remove barriers to improve health,” he said.

Along the way, Wilcox starting riding a handbike, a type of vehicle powered by the arms rather than legs for a bicycle.

In 2015, he learned that para-cycling had developed a category in handcycling that allows people with less function, such as himself, to compete in the sport.

“I’m like, ‘Let’s do this, let’s jump right in,’” Wilcox said.

His first race was 10 miles, and it was “just fun,” he said. “It brought back all the memories and energy. It was empowering.”

Over the next few years, Wilcox trained and traveled to compete at international events, gradually improving with time.

Wilcox qualified for Team USA in early 2022, but he needed to take some time away from competitive handcycling to deal with “the stresses of life” and take care of himself, he said.

During this time, he was selected by Loma Linda University’s Paralympic training program, “PossAbilities,” and began training with higher-functioning handcyclists.

“My attitude changed,” he said. “I was completely reinvigorated with these changes.”

Loma Linda University, a higher education system of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, requires its selected para-cycling athletes to uphold Christlike values, which the Latter-day Saint appreciated.

“It is a privilege to be part of and represent such an organization as one who is Christian to the core,” Wilcox said.

Back on his handbike, Wilcox broke onto the international scene in the closing stages of the 2023 season and began winning medals.

In early May, he traveled to Ostend, Belgium, where he had his breakout race and won the first world cup medal of his career — a bronze — at the 2023 UCI Para-Cycling Road World Cup competition.

“After many years in the sport of handcycling I earned my first world cup medal placing third in the time trial here in Belgium. Pumped and grateful. What a privilege to race,” he wrote in an Instagram post. “I almost quit last year as I was not progressing as I wanted to, and that was on me. I knew I had it in me but letting certain things hold me back.”

Later the same month, Wilcox won another bronze at the UCI Para-Cycling World Cup in Huntsville, Alabama. He was one of five Team USA members to win a medal at the event.

“Stoked with another time trial podium finish in third in Huntsville, Alabama, at the first Para-Cycling World Cup ever held in the United States,” Wilcox wrote in an Instagram post.

Wilcox is looking forward to traveling to Scotland to take part in the largest event in cycling history, featuring thousands of cyclists from around the world.

“It’s going to be awesome,” he said. “Huge.”

If things go well, Wilcox hopes for a shot at the Paris 2024 Paralympics.

Reflecting on his journey, Wilcox expressed gratitude for his faith and the gospel of Jesus Christ. He also attributed his success to hard work and goal-setting.

“He is a strength, an anchor, a light. He’s an example and great guide,” Wilcox said of the Savior. “Experience provides truth. Without experience it can be difficult to see the reality in things. I found that if I worked hard, took chances, was consistent and had an end goal, the path was so much easier.”

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