Canada has obtained their first gold at the 2014 Paralympic Games – all thanks to cross-country skier Brian McKeever.
The 34-year-old from Canmore, Alberta took part in the men’s visually impaired 20km cross-country race on Monday, led by his guide Erik Carleton.
McKeever cruised easily towards the finish line with a time of 52:37.1, beating Russia’s silver medalist Stanislav Chokhlaev by 1:06.2. Swedish athlete Zebastian Modin came in third at 1:05:02.2.
“That meant a lot,” said McKeever. “That was the one we were waiting to win. It’s been eight years in the making. That’s the one we really wanted.”
The win, however, came as a surprise for the athlete. He told the CTV News Channel that he caught a virus last week, so he was unsure about how he would perform. The virus forced McKeever to drop out of the men’s 7.5km biathlon on Saturday.
“It was a tough day today,” McKeever informed. “In an endurance sport, you knock yourself down a few per cent and that can mean the difference between winning and losing.”
Brian McKeever crossing the finish line in the 20km race
This makes it 8 gold medals in total for our Canadian athlete, including the three he won at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic games.
At the age of 18, McKeever was diagnosed with Stargardt disease (a macular degeneration that causes progressive vision loss), which also affected his father. When asked to describe his vision, McKeever said, “If you stare at the sun for a long time and turn away, you get these fuzzy spots. Well for me, the fuzzy spots don’t go away.”
His father and aunt both have the same impairment.
“Judging from their experience, they remember being in grade 1 and they couldn’t read the boards, and for me it developed really late, so we thought it skipped both my brother and I,” McKeever said.
McKeever’s gold gives Canada a total of six medals so far during the Sochi games.
The skier has scheduled a 1km sprint race on Wednesday, a relay race on Saturday and a 10-kilometre race on Sunday.
Image sources: thestar.com, en.rsport.ru