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World record narrowly missed

Wes Barker carried his friend Kevin Kokoska for 14 minutes before giving up his attempt at breaking the Guinness World Record for the fastest one-mile fireman carry.  - Harry Hunt/Black Press
Wes Barker carried his friend Kevin Kokoska for 14 minutes before giving up his attempt at breaking the Guinness World Record for the fastest one-mile fireman carry.
— image credit: Harry Hunt/Black Press

With more than two laps to go around McLeod Athletic Park’s quarter mile track last Wednesday evening, Wes Barker already had an inkling that his attempt at breaking a Guinness World Record was on shaky ground.

The balance of his load — his longtime friend Kevin Kokoska — was off just enough to prevent Barker from getting his name in the famous book for the fastest one-mile fireman carry.

“At two and a half laps, I was so off balance, I almost put him down,” said Barker.

With a crowd cheering him on, he persisted, but as the finish line approached, it all became too much for him to handle.

“I carried him almost 14 minutes; I just couldn’t hold him any longer.”

With just 200 metres to go, Barker set the 6’5” Kokoska on the ground and reluctantly admitted defeat.

“There were a lot of people there and it was a lot louder than we thought it would be,” he said, explaining that he’d had difficulty hearing the shouts from the timer marking his progress.

But Barker’s not blaming the noise of the crowd for tripping him up.

“I think having that many people wasn’t really an issue — I think I might have got myself too worked up,” he said.

“Practice is easier, because it’s quieter and I’m not overly hyped up. And in practice I can take as many tries as I want.”

Speaking the following morning about his narrowly failed attempt, Barker acknowledged he was a little afraid to watch the video of his effort.

“It was just this slow crumble,” said the 25-year-old professional magician and D.W. Poppy grad.

A former university basketball player who worked for two years as a forestry firefighter, Barker had to drop from 220 to 195 pounds to match Kokoska’s weight. Guinness Record rules state that the person being carried must weigh at least as much as the person who is attempting the record.

So he upped his cardio training, hit the weight room and practised carrying his buddy until he felt ready to make an official attempt.

Barker estimated that about 200 people were at the track next to Langley Secondary School on Wednesday evening to cheer him on as he went after the existing record of 15 minutes and 11 seconds.

Some were folks he knew, who’d learned about the attempt from his announcement on Facebook, others just happened to be at the park.

“People were coming up to me that I’d never met, and saying how cool it was,” he said.

“It wasn’t even for a cause — just some goofball trying to break a world record.”

Barker checked out a few of the existing Guinness records before deciding on the fireman carry.

“There are a lot of strange ones, like the most cucumbers snapped in half in a minute,” he said with a chuckle.

(That’s 75, by the way).

But he wanted to try something a bit “stunt-y and physical.”

Wednesday’s attempt was Barker’s first, but by no means his last shot at the record.

“I put in six months of effort. I have to try again,” he said, adding he’ll take at at least another month to recover and prepare.

“It’s the most pain I’ve ever been in,” he said.

Barker also gives a lot of credit to Kokoska who, three days earlier, had completed a gruelling 12-and-a-half hour Iron Man triathlon.

To then allow someone to carry him, slung over their shoulder, for 14 minutes is no small thing, Barker said.

“You should see the bruises he gets.”

Still, Kokoska is game to give it another try.

“He said, ‘I don’t want you to, but I’ll let you.’”

There are a few things Barker plans to do differently on his second attempt. For example, he’d like to have the time put up on the score clock so he can monitor his progress; he’ll make sure he’s more focused and, in the meantime, he’ll continue to work on building his strength and endurance.

“Next time, he said, “there will be nothing stopping me.”

Video online at langleytimes.com.

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