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Gryphon Gallery: Michael Barber

Stuart Brambley, School Archivist
Giving his all to be the best he can be.
Michael Barber only attended GNS at Junior Kindergarten in 2005/2006. The son of Gary Barber, long time PE teacher at SMUS Junior School and former Canadian international runner who competed at the 1990 Commonwealth Games, it was no surprise that he would possibly take to running, following in the ‘strides’ of his dad.

However, recognising him in the Gryphon Gallery is both appropriate and very exciting. Michael was diagnosed autistic and understandably followed a better-suited educational path. It was back in the summer of 2006, as a six-year-old, that Michael first asked his dad if he could run in a 1K kids run. He not only ran but finished first. “I remember crossing the finishing line that day, I felt like I was a champion runner,” he said. “From that point onwards, I had a feeling that something special was going to come down the road.” 

Well, Michael, your prediction has come true. He has just been named to the Canadian team for the upcoming World Para Athletics Championships this July in Paris, France as a T-20 category athlete. 

As an Oak Bay High athlete, Michael ran for Canada at the 2017 and 2019 World Junior Championships, coming first in the U-17 1500m and fourth in the U-18 800m. The thrill and success of this international exposure, understandably helped set his sights on making the Tokyo Paralympics in 2021, but it was not to be. However, he was not deterred, and setting Canadian records on the way only added to his determination and belief that his time would come. 

He reflected, “My early teenage years were challenging once I became fully aware of my autism diagnosis. For a while, I felt a bit embarrassed and didn’t want anyone to know. My parents were incredibly supportive and my involvement in running gave me a sense of purpose. I started to accept my diagnosis, and then celebrated it. I am not ashamed, it is part of me but not who I am.”

And now it has all paid off. Yes, appropriate for Gallery recognition because he is an alumni, exciting because it is not only the high point thus far of his running career but that he will also be a teammate of fellow alum and outstanding para-athlete, Liam Stanley ’16, who is a training partner out of the Prairie Inn Harriers. So stay tuned to the World Para Athletics Championships, July 8–17 and keep your eyes and ears open for news of our GNS representatives.  Go Gryphons!

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We wish to acknowledge and respect the Straits Salish Peoples on whose traditional territory we gather. Specifically, we recognize the Lekwungen Peoples known today as the Songhees Nation and the Esquimalt Nation, whose historical relationships with the land where we live, work, play and learn continue to this day.