Our Canadian athletes have succeeded in attaining their lofty goal in this year’s Winter Paralympics, coming home with 16 medals and smiles all around. In total, Canada has won seven gold, two silver and seven bronze.
Two podium-worthy performances by Brian McKeever and Chris Klebl on the final day of competition ensured that Canada would earn the third position overall out of 88 countries.
Brian McKeever landed another gold in men’s 10km free, visually impaired race, making him the first Canadian to ever attain 10 gold medals in their Winter Paralympic career. The 34-year-old finished with a time of 23:18.1, exactly seven seconds ahead of second place winner Stanislav Chokhlaev of Russia. France’s Thomas Clarion landed a bronze nearly a minute after McKeever.
“This was really special because we’re able to do it as a team,” McKeever said, referring to himself and guides Erik Carleton and Graham Nishikawa. “The three of us have had just a fantastic year of training, four really good years of training. These guys are fantastic.”
Brain McKeever (right) and guide Graham Nishikawa (left) listen as the Canadian anthem is played.
Meanwhile, in men’s 10km sit-ski race, 42-year-old Chris Klebl dominated. He took the whole field by surprise when he darted to the front of the pack and was able to relentlessly keep that position until the end.
He crossed the finish line in 30:52.0, which was 14.5 seconds ahead of Ukranian Maksym Yarovyi, who came in second. Russia’s Grigory Murygin took bronze, pushing Petushkov completely off the podium.
Chris Klebl (left) and Brian McKeever (right) celebrate their gold medals.
“The Paralympics are once every four years and this is my third,” Klebl said. “I’ve been doing this for 10 years. It was the last opportunity for the next four years. I’m pretty excited.”
This had our Canadians in a great mood for the closing ceremony, which happened at 20:00, Sochi time.
The ceremony, titled “Reaching the Impossible,” celebrated the strength of determination and principle of inclusivity.
It was a whirling, colourful affair, featuring a performance of the Russian Wheelchair Dance Sport Federation, as well as a high-flying group of talented trapeze artists in illuminated costumes sailing through the air.
Following these performances, Russia’s gold medalists at this year’s Games carried their country’s flag into the Fisht Stadium, resulting to the singing of the Russian national anthem by the Russian state children’s chorus.
The next segment of the ceremony saluted famous Russian painter Vasily Kandinsky, as 462 dancers in bright and vivid costumes honoured the man widely regarded as the founder of abstract art.
Dancers celebrating Vasily Kandinsky in their vivid costumes.
The final act of the dance troupe was the spelling out of the word “impossible” in large block letters, while the Mission Impossible theme song accompanied them.
This then led to the highlight of the ceremony: Aleksey Chuvachev, a summer Paralympian missing both legs, climbing a 15 metre rope using just his arms, and adding an apostrophe to “Impossible” to make it “I’m possible”.
The unveiling of “I’m possible”, a key theme at the closing ceremony.
Later on, the Paralympic flag was lowered and the International Paralympic Committee President Sir Philip Craven expressed his gratitude towards everyone who made the games possible.
“Tonight I simply want to say thank you,” he said. “Thank you to each and every one of you for making these Games so special, so memorable, and so compelling, that not one of us wants them to end.”
He then thanked Russia’s President, Vladmir Putin and the Russian Federation, followed up by a message to each of Sochi’s Paralympic participants.
“The Paralympic spirit has united and infected us all. Proud Paralympians, your inspirational athletic performances have redefined the boundaries of possibility. You have shown the world that absolutely anything is possible, and that life is about amazing capabilities, and not perceived deficiencies.”
Image sources: cbc.ca, voiceofrussia.com