Brian McKeever, who made history in 2010 when he was named to the Olympic and Paralympic teams, retained his position as the top visually impaired cross country skier in the world in 2013-14. The highlight was the Sochi Paralympic Games where he collected gold medals in the 20 kilometre, 10 kilometre and one kilometre sprint with his guides Erik Carleton and Graham Nishikawa.
His victory in the one kilometre was particularly memorable as he overcame a fall at the start and overtook the leader on the final bend to win it.
In 2010, he did not start in the Olympic races in Whistler, but a month later collected three gold medals at the Paralympics to add to his already impressive career haul. Overall, McKeever has earned 13 Paralympic medals in three Games, including 10 gold, the most victories ever by a Canadian winter Paralympian. He has competed at every world championships since 2005 and won nine titles in addition to 21 World Cup wins.
The 10 Paralympic gold medals feat matches the amount earned by summer Paralympians Chantal Petitclerc, Michael Edgson and Timothy McIsaac.
McKeever overcame some big challenges heading into the 2010 Vancouver Games. In October 2008, he suffered a micro-fracture in his rib and in March 2009 broke his left humerus (upper arm) in a crash at the Canadian championships.
In the following season after the 2010 Paralympics, he was a repeat victor in the same three events in which he won gold in Vancouver at the world championships.
In 2012-13, McKeever reasserted his dominance on the international stage with his new guide Erik Carleton. He captured the IPC Cross Country Skiing World Cup title for athletes with a visual impairment. He also shone at the 2013 IPC Nordic Skiing World Championships, winning two more gold medals in the cross country long distance freestyle and sprint events.
McKeever also races on the able-bodied and para-nordic World Cup circuits. One of his able-bodied competition highlights was a 21st place in the 15 km freestyle at the 2007 FIS World Championships in Sapporo, Japan. He was first overall in the 2002, 2003 and 2004 World Cup men’s blind rankings.
At age 19, McKeever was diagnosed with Stargardt disease (a macular degeneration or loss of central vision – fine detail and colour), which had also afflicted his father. “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,” said McKeever describing his vision.
One of his idols is U.S. distance runner Marla Runyan, who also has Stargardt disease. She competed at the Olympic Games in 2000 and Paralympic Games in 1992 and 1996.
2010 and 2014 Paralympic Champion in sprint, 20 km freestyle, 10 km classic… 2006 Paralympic champion 5 km freestyle, 10 km classic … 2002 Paralympic champion in 10 km freestyle… Para-Nordic world champion nine times… World Cup winner 21 times.
First athlete to be named to Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games team (2010).
FAMILY: His brother Robin was a Nordic skier who represented Canada at the 1998 Olympic Winter Games in Nagano. Robin has also served as his guide, and is now a national coach in the sport…
GETTING INTO THE SPORT: Started skiing at age three... Entered his first competitive race at age 12… Kaspar Wirz introduced him to the blind skier category of the Para-Nordic ski world…
ODDS AND ENDS: Named Best Male Athlete at the 2007 IPC Paralympic Sports Awards…. Was the first Canadian athlete with a disability to ski in an able-bodied international event in 2007… Selected as the Canadian flag bearer at the closing ceremony of the 2002 Paralympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City…