It was a crisp and cold morning at Whistler’s Paralympic Park, the home where many heated races would take place. A Canadian favourite, Brian McKeever with his brother Robin McKeever as a guide were waiting near the start line. They were seventh to go for the 20 km cross-country race against the best athletes from all around the world. They had never won a gold medal in this event and after getting sixth place in the 3 km biathlon pursuit, they were both ready to go and try to win a medal. It was a long but tight race with everyone trying to keep a good pace. The four leaders of the race were between Canada’s Brian McKeever, Nikolay Polukhin of Russia, Vasili Shaptsiaboi of Belarus, and Wilhelm Brem of Germany. The four were skiing close to each other. At on of the first time checks, McKeever and Brem were neck and neck for first. Then at the next check point, Polukhin passed the two with a lead of a mere 1.1 seconds. McKeever later passed Brem and was in second position. A checkpoint later, Polukhin lost his lead and dropped to third, making Brian the leader. Brian would maintain that position for the rest of the race, creating a larger gap behind him and securing his lead.
Brian McKeever was now at home stretch, skiing as hard as he could with a huge crowd cheering him on. He crossed the finish line and received his and Canada’s first gold medal in the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games. Nikolay Polukhin would take home the silver, finishing 40.9 seconds after McKeever and was followed 27 seconds after by Vasili Shaptsiaboi, taking the bronze. After the long and hard race, Brian McKeever and Robin McKeever stood on top of the podium and soaked in the moment. “It is extremely satisfying just because the last two Paralympics, I drove Brian as hard as I could in Salt Lake for silver“, said a joyful Robin after completing the race. “In Torino, I was sick for the 20 km and I couldn''t guide Brian to my fullest there and he missed the gold by about nine seconds, so that''s a tough one. Coming out here with the first gold medal in the 20 km, we just did really well as a team and I am really happy.“
“It was definitely hard, but we stuck to our plan and kept our pace“, commented Brian on the success of his race. “You are never sure if you will get it, you need to push right through.“ There was an euphoric feel around the air when everyone stood up and cheered at the winners during the flower ceremony right after the competition. It was a day of victory for Canada and especially Brian. After not being able to compete in the Olympics and after not being able to get on the podium in his last race, this was the moment for him to shine. With more and more well known athletes such as McKeever helping promote this worldly event, the Paralympic Games are getting an increasing amount of coverage. “We want to raise the profile of the Paralympics. We want to reach the gap between the Olympics and the Paralympics, and I think we are doing that. This is going to help the Paralympic Movement to grow.“ Brian mentioned to the press. When asked if he was planning to try and get into the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Brian stated: “I want another shot at the Olympics for sure. You know, we are already setting the plans on how to get there, making sure that the training will be right.“
Two days later, Brian McKeever was supposed to come with his brother and participate in the 12.5 km biathlon race. However, the McKeever brothers decided not to show up and instead focused on the 10 km classic cross-country race the following day. Missing the biathlon race payed off for Brian because it helped him win a second gold medal. With almost a minute and thirty second lead over Norway’s Helge Flo, it was a big finish for Brian McKeever. When asked if he was happy with his decision of not participating in the biathlon event, he confidently said: “During the Olympics, there are almost no competitors that will do every race, and the ones that do are often not strong near the end.“
So far, Brian McKeever has been dominating in the men''s visually impaired cross-country skiing events. “Everyday we are getting a little stronger.“ Brian remarked about his relationship as an athlete with his brother-guide. This dynamic duo still have many races to look forward too.