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Canadian track and field athletes will wear "DB" patch in memory of Barnaby

05/06/2015 05:38 EDT | Updated 05/06/2016 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - When Canada's track and field athletes compete this summer, Daundre Barnaby will be with them.

The Canadian team will wear a patch on their uniforms in memory of their friend and teammate who drowned on March 27 at a training camp in St. Kitts.

"It already does feel like he's running with us," said sprinter Shai-Anne Davis.

"But it's having something to symbolize that, and to have people question, 'What is that for?' So we can let people know who he was as an athlete and a person."

The memorial insignia — a stylized "DB" — will be on the left chest of the track team's uniforms for the Pan American Games in July, where Barnaby would have competed in the 400 metres and 4x400 relay. Athletics Canada is in discussions with the IAAF, the world governing body for the sport, to obtain permission to wear it at the world championships in Beijing.

"It's a better way to have him a part of us. He's still on the track with us, still running the race with us, even though he's not here," said sprinter Khamica Bingham. "He's always in our heart. It's a constant reminder, you look down and you see Canada. . . and you also remember you're doing it for Daundre."

On the track, Barnaby was one of Canada's most promising sprinters, a long-legged 400-metre specialist from Brampton, Ont., who was known for his strong finishing kick.

The team's motto this season: Finish like Barnaby.

"You look at his races, and he was a guy who never gave up," said Anthony McCleary, who — along with Desai Williams — was coaching the team of about 25 sprinters at the warm-weather camp in St. Kitts.

Barnaby, 24, and several teammates went swimming in the ocean after practice. Barnaby was pulled away by a strong undertow.

"We sat with all the athletes. . .we had to figure out a way to keep everyone focused," McCleary said. "A lot of the athletes said they wanted, when they performed, to keep Daundre in mind. And so every time they gathered together, they would say 'Let's do this. Let's finish like Barnaby.'"

A couple of days after his death, the group ran a tribute 4x400-metre relay in St. Kitts. Barnaby's mom Janet and sprinter Kimberly Hyacinthe, who was at the beach with Barnaby the day he died, ran the first leg. His 4x400 teammates ran Legs 2 and 3. The rest of the group ran the anchor leg.

"Afterward the coaches said 'Everything we do, from this moment on, is for him,'" Davis said. "That really sunk in. Everything we do is for D.B. Finish like Barnaby."

Barnaby grew up in St. Ann, Jamaica, and then competed for the Mississippi State Bulldogs. He became a Canadian citizen in time to compete at the 2012 Olympics, earning his spot by winning the trials — the footage of which shows Barnaby overtaking several runners down the homestretch, eating up the track on his slender legs.

His teammates liked to tease him about those legs.

"He was really skinny and his legs were really skinny, so everyone called him 'Sticks,'" Bingham said, laughing. "We would always say that he never got lactic acid (the compound that causes the burning sensation down the stretch of a 400). That's why he could finish so strong, because he had no meat on his legs."

Teammates remembered Barnaby as a "jokester."

"He come to me at practice and say 'Shai-Anne, did you hear the workout? You're not going to survive today.' And then he'd make up a workout off the top of his head, and I would believe it," Davis said. "And then the coaches would tell us the real workout, and I'd say 'Oh Barnaby, why do I even listen to you?' He was a great person, and a great presence to have around you."

Bingham lived near Barnaby and would drive him to and from training at York University.

"He was extremely lazy sometimes. And he hated taking the bus, absolutely hated it," Bingham said. "Daundre would run fast, when he needed to run fast. He would work hard when he needed to. But he was like a lazy hard worker, he was a stubborn smart athlete."

Barnaby's career was just getting started, Williams said. He'd produced "phenomenal" results in practice this season, and likely could have competed through the 2020 Olympics.

"He was one of the better kids in terms of personality, in terms of respect, he was genuine, he was a team player, and fun to be around. He was just one of those special kids, it's just a tragic loss," Williams said. "I still can't believe that he's gone. Too soon. Way way too soon."

Nike, the apparel supplier for Athletics Canada, was supportive of the patch, which was designed and created pro bono by Vic Finucci of Finucci Communications.

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