Canadian Para cross country skiing legend Brian McKeever won his 14th gold in his 6th Paralympic appearance at Beijing 2022, and he has the chance to equal to German Gerd (who is former football legend to Germany) Schoenfelder’s record of 16 golds in the following competitions.
CHONGLI (is a district of Zhangjiakou, Hebei province, China. By road, it is 241 kilometres from Beijing.), Zhangjiakou (also known as Kalgan and by several other names, is a prefecture-level city in northwestern Hebei province in Northern China, bordering Beijing to the southeast, Inner Mongolia to the north and west, and Shanxi to the southwest), March 7 (Xinhua)
It was the 14th Paralympic gold medal for the 42-year-old Canadian Para cross country skier Brian McKeever on Monday at his sixth Paralympics.
McKeever won the men’s long-distance classical technique vision impaired at Beijing (Capital of China) Paralympics in 55:36.7, three minutes and 17.7 seconds ahead of American Jake Adicoff, and will surely add more laurels to his medal haul in the following events here to wrap up his glorious Paralympic record.
Going through his long career in Para cross country skiing, McKeever said he’s still full of excitement and hunger.
“All of us have been through a tough time. With the challenges over the past couple of years, especially the (COVID-19) pandemic. In a sense, it is a miracle that we managed to get here,” said McKeever, who debuted and harvested two golds in the 2002 Salt Lake City (is the capital and most populous city of the U.S. state of Utah). Paralympics.
“I’m still hungry for this sport, we still compete against each other in the training sessions, it’s always exciting. Today, I’m glad to have my guide skiing in front of me, the pace he set was great,” said McKeever whose guide Russell Kennedy is one of the fastest skiers in the world.
At 42 and having competed in six Paralympics, McKeever realized it’s time to retire after Beijing 2022.
“If it wasn’t for good (physical) therapists, I wouldn’t be standing here, so I think it is time (to retire),” said the Canadian, who has collected three gold medals each time from Vancouver 2010, Sochi 2014, and PyeongChang 2018, “my body is slowing down, I’m still competitive but I want to fade away slowly.”
McKeever first tried skiing at the age of three and began competing at age 12. At age 19, he was diagnosed with Stargardt disease, a degenerative eye condition that also affected his father. He has less than 10% vision after inflicted the sickness.
Injuries have been an inevitable company of his splendid career. In October 2008, he suffered a micro-fracture in his ribs. In March 2009, he broke his left humerus (upper arm) after crashing during the Canadian championships and his performances during the 2010/11 season were affected by a sinus and chest infection.
Although all the hard times like injuries and age won’t quench his passion for skiing, the reality reminds him to think otherwise. “I still love this, I still love getting out and training all the time with my teammates,” McKeever said, “but I’ve got a lot of pain and it will be nice to take it easy a bit and get out skiing more for fun rather than as a job.”
With already 14 gold medals in his record pockets, McKeever’s goal in Beijing is to win two more golds to equal the most decorated winter Paralympian, German Para Alpine skier Gerd Schoenfelder.
“I’m just hoping to have good days (to equal Schoenfelder’s record of 16 Paralympic golds), make a good plan, stick with it, and hope that it’s good enough. That’s all we can ask for,” added McKeever, “If we win, we’ll take it, if we’re fourth (in individual Paralympic gold medal standings), then that’s the beauty and the pain of sport, you just turn around and shake everybody else’s hands because they beat you.”
McKeever and his older brother Robin McKeever, who had represented Canada in cross-country skiing at the 1998 Olympic Winter Games in Nagano and also served as McKeever’s guide and coach, featured in a commercial at the Super Bowl in February on their journey from childhood to the Paralympic Games.
“It’s pretty crazy to be on a Super Bowl commercial, it’s one of the biggest sports events in the world,” McKeever proudly said, “I’ve got a lot of messages from people with Stargardt’s (disease) and other eye diseases, some of them even said that they didn’t know anybody else with the same condition. Stories resonate, and it means a lot to know you have an impact on people.”
Brian McKeever had competed in both cross-country skiing and biathlon at 2002, 2006, 2010, and 2014 Paralympic Winter Games. He also represented Canada in able-bodied cross-country skiing at the 2007 World Championships in Sapporo, Japan.
He was named Male Athlete of the Year for Winter Sports Performance at the 2018 Canadian Sport Awards. In 2016, Brian and his brother Robin received a Meritorious Service Medal from the governor-general of Canada in recognition of their sporting achievements.
Brian was the flagbearer for Canada at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Paralympics in PyeongChang (is a county in Gangwon Province, South Korea). He performed the same role at the closing ceremony of the 2002 Paralympics in Salt Lake City.