-Innovative Canucks use two guides, Carleton and Nishikawa, to lead
McKeever to eighth Paralympic title-
SOCHI, Russia, March 10, 2014 /CNW/ - Brian McKeever cracked Canada's
golden goose egg in the medal count at the Paralympic Winter Games in
Sochi, Russia on Monday, and he did it with a unique twist.
One of the most accomplished athletes in the history of Paralympic
sport, the 34-year-old McKeever utilized both of his training partners
and guides, Erik Carleton and Graham Nishikawa, in the 20-kilometre
classic-ski race to slog through the summer-like warm and slow snow
conditions and put one in the win column for Canada. The Canadian trio
teamed up to clock a winning time of 52 minutes, 37.1 seconds.
"Today was a huge team effort having two guides out there sharing the
work," said McKeever, 34. "It was definitely needed because I couldn't
have done that on my own. They set the perfect pace with the snow being
what it was. It is much faster skiing from behind in conditions like
this, and unfortunately for the guides, they are forced to work pretty
damn hard. It was all them today!"
Russia's Stanislav Chokhlaev skied to the silver medal at 53:43.3, while
Sweden's Zebastian Modin grabbed the bronze with a time of 56:34.9.
Watching many of the world's best Nordic nations struggle with the
difficult warm weather and snow conditions at the Olympics and
Paralympics in Sochi, the decision to leverage both of the guides that
McKeever brought to these Paralympics - the first time he has done so
in his legendary career - was made last night during a team meeting.
"It was a convoluted plan and a risky plan that was needed to be done
only because of the strength of the athlete," said 40-year-old Robin
McKeever, head coach of the Canada's Para-Nordic Team who guided his
brother to his previous 10 Paralympic medals. "Guiding in these
conditions is brutal, and when you are leading a world class athlete
like Brian it is very difficult to keep the pace he needs.
"Brian controls the throttle. The risk bringing an athlete in mid-race
is he can potentially go out to hard and blow himself up, or he goes to
hard and wrecks Brian. Communication is absolutely critical all day
between each of the athletes and coaches.
"As the talent of the athletes continue to evolve at the Paralympics I
think we are going to see more of this type of strategy because it is
so hard to stay out in front of them, and for the guides to continue
keeping the pace they need to win."
The strategy definitely seemed to pay off. With the original race plan
to switch guides at the 12-kilometre mark, the Canadians were dropping
further back into second place at the mid-way point of the race as the
36-year-old Erik Carleton was running out of gas.
"I started steady and tried to build from there, but was getting tired
setting the pace we were at so it was good we made the switch because I
did all I could do today," said Carleton. "It is tough to guide a guy
as fast as Brian, but I'm happy we got it done today."
Childhood buddies, Carleton and McKeever teamed up following the 2010
Paralympics when Brian's brother Robin packed in his racing career to
focus on coaching Canada's Para-Nordic squad. Recognizing the advantage
of having additional arsenal in the wax room, the two Canmore, Alta.
natives invited National Ski Team member, Graham Nishikawa, into their
training group this fall with the goal of bringing both guides to the
While Nishikawa continued to race able-bodied both domestically in
Canada and on the World Cup circuit this year, he remained committed to
McKeever at the Paralympics.
"This is not only my first Paralympics, but my first time guiding Brian
today so it is a whole new world for me," said Nishikawa, who was on
Canada's World Championship team last year and raced last the World Cup
in Lahti, Finland last week. "I'm very excited to be here for Brian. It
is a tough job to lead him out there. He is a world-class athlete, and
we have to set a very fast pace to be out in front of him to deliver
Similar to a relief pitcher getting the call from the bullpen, the elder
McKeever gave the Whitehorse native the nod to charge to the stadium at
the midway point of the race and power Canada to gold.
"It really allowed me to keep the strength in the second half when the
track started breaking down, getting wetter and slower. It allowed me
to keep a good tempo. Like I said, this win is all on the guides
Two medals - three athletes - begs the question of which guide gets the
hardware. It was Carleton's name on the start list so he and McKeever
will receive Canada's first gold medals at a ceremony on Tuesday
"Having a medal doesn't matter at all to me," said Nishikawa. "I was
just here for Brian and I'm so happy we got the job done. Nothing can
beat that. It is all I could ask for."
The victory brings McKeever's medal haul to 11 at the Paralympics,
including eight gold.
If he can chalk up two more victories in his other races this week,
McKeever will become the first Canadian Winter Paralympian with at
least 10 gold medals.
"This one might be one of the most special," said McKeever. "Just having
both of these guys who have been very good friends of mine for a long
time, sharing the work, it is pretty special."
Meanwhile, Brittany Hudak also made her Paralympic debut on Monday.
Hudak, of Prince Albert, Sask., clocked-in at 59:10.6 to place 10th in
the women's 15-kilometre classic-ski standing race. Ottawa's Margarita
Gourbounova, and Regina-based guide, Andrea Bundon, were fourth in the
women's 15-kilometre visually impaired category.
The biathlon middle distance races take centre stage at the Laura Nordic
Stadium on Tuesday.
For more information and complete results, please visit the 2014
Paralympic Winter Games web site at www.paralympic.ca.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Media are invited to visit photos.paralympic.ca and create an account
to be able to download high-resolution photos of Canadian Paralympic
athletes at any time, at no cost.
For full information about Team Canada at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic
Games, please visit www.paralympic.ca/team-canada.
SOURCE: Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC)
For further information:
Media and Public Relations
Cross Country Canada
T: +7 9384543206
Press Chief, Team Canada
SOCHI Cell: 011-7-938-454-3162