McKeever makes history for Canada at Paralympics

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Brian McKeever has become Canada’s most decorated Winter Paralympian by taking gold in the 20km visually impaired cross-country race.

It was McKeever’s 11th Paralympic gold medal and his 14th overall.

He now surpasses Para-alpine skier Lana Spreeman as the most successful winter Paralympian from his country.

Near perfection

After his latest victory, the 38-year-old was quick to pay tribute to his two guides that helped him through the four-lap race.

Graham Nishikawa and Russell Kennedy – who also competed for Canada at last month’s Winter Olympics – tag-teamed to the triumph.

McKeever had to contend with tricky conditions on course.

Competitors had to deal with strong winds and snow conditions that became increasingly slushy.

“They did an awesome job today,” said Canada’s flag bearer after victory.

“To be able to tuck in behind these big boys is important for me,” he continued.

“They pushed hard, skied well and towed me along the whole way.”

It was McKeever, guided by Nishikawa, who led from the off.

The Canadian paced his race to near perfection, gradually accumulating greater distance over the rest of the field.

By the halfway point – just after Kennedy took over from Nishikawa – his advantage was more than 30 seconds.

France’s Thomas Clarion was his nearest challenger at this stage.

Kennedy, who took part in three events in the recent Olympics, then tapped Nishikawa on the back for the final 5km lap.

McKeever had more than a minute’s lead over the rest of the field and was able to cruise home.

He crossed the line in 44 minutes, 2.7 seconds.

Belarus’ Yuri Holub produced a late surge to take silver ahead of Clarion in third.

Unique place

McKeever is the only Canadian athlete to qualify for the Olympic and Paralympics, doing so at Vancouver 2010.

He admitted though that the experience eight years ago was bittersweet as he did not get the opportunity to race in the able-bodied competition.

Now though he can celebrate his unique place in Canadian Paralympics in his fifth appearance at a Games.

“It is pretty cool,” McKeever said about his 11th gold medal.

“It’s confirmation that we’re still competitive even at ripe old age now.”

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Author: Stephen Hannon
Stephen Hannon is the Head of News at Olympic Channel, the digital platform launched by the IOC.