In 1982 at the age of 26, Barbara Buchan (Bend, Ore.) took up cycling and progressed quickly, positioning herself on the short list of women competing for a place on the U.S. National Team. Her life then changed forever during a qualifying race for the World Championships when 21 out of the 80 competitors were caught in a bike pileup on a steep descent. Buchan was the most severely injured. No helmets were used at that time. She spent two months in a coma and had five brain surgeries but she was determined to get back into sport and began to compete in Paralympic track. The longest distance at that time however, was the 1500m and she enjoyed longer distances so after the 1988 Paralympics she switched to cycling. This is her fifth Paralympic Games. She has never won gold – until now.
Buchan began the morning competing in the Qualifying round of the Women’s Individual Pursuit. She came out strong, so strong in fact she set a new world record in the CP3 class with a time of 4:31.334. Her factored time in the entire division was 4:13.860, enough for a first place finish heading into the finals.
In the finals, Buchan was set to compete against 30-year old Natalie Simanowski (GER). She did not disappoint and posted a final factored time of 4:15.848, four seconds faster than Simanowski. The gold was finally hers, after waiting so long.
“I can’t believe I did it,” said a jubilant Buchan. “My accident was so long ago but I am pleased I finally got my gold.”
Buchan then jokingly added “I’m doing all right for an old lady!” She went on to explain she believed so much of the competition is mental and that age should not be a factor.