Brian McKeever is one of those guys that seem to keep getting better with time. At 33, Canada’s Para-Nordic World Cup visually impaired skier once again dominated the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) World Cup scene last season, winning every IPC cross-country event he participated in.
With guide Erik Carleton, McKeever tallied two golds at 2013 World Championships in Solleftea, Sweden, and two more at World Cup Finals in Sochi, Russia.
“I don’t think the guides get nearly as much recognition as they should,” McKeever told Cross Country Canada in February. “It is tough being the guide because you are out front and not skiing your own race. … When I need him to hold off he has to, and when I need him to increase the pace he needs to do that as well.”
Childhood friends from Calgary, the duo didn’t waste any time getting from their last World Cup Finals race in Sochi to Whistler, British Columbia. There, McKeever captured his first national title in the 10-kilometer freestyle on March 24, just four days after racing in Russia.
“You never really know how you are going to feel after getting off the plane from Russia,” McKeever told FasterSkier after arriving two days earlier. “First national championship win in my career, I am really happy about that.”
To start the season, both McKeever and Carleton individually qualified for the able-bodied World Cup races in Canmore, Alberta. They decided to skip the opening IPC World Cups to compete in Canmore, where McKeever notched a career-best 38th in the skiathlon in mid-December.
In February, the 10-time Paralympic medalist double poled the entire Canadian Birkebeiner 55 k classic in Edmonton, Alberta, and won by nearly three minutes. Carleton, 35, placed second.
McKeever took on the Vasaloppet 90 k classic in early March for the second-straight year, finishing 45th overall – a vast improvement from 83rd in 2012.
Another 10-time Paralympic medalist, Canada’s veteran sit-skier Colette Bourgonje, 51, isn’t showing signs of slowing down before the 2014 Winter Games (which will be her seventh Paralympics). In January, she raced to silver and bronze at the IPC World Cup in Cable, Wis., and went on to place eighth at World Championships and sixth at World Cup Finals. Bourgonje landed fifth overall in the IPC World Cup.
Further proving the depth of Canada’s Para-Nordic team, 22-year-old Mark Arendz won his first IPC Biathlon World Championships gold in February in the 7.5 k sprint. Also in Solleftea, Arendz claimed bronze in the 12.5 and 15 k distance races and finished eighth overall in the World Cup.
After trying out sit skiing for the first time at U.S. Nationals in January, Tatyana McFadden went on to represent the U.S. at the IPC World Cup in Cable, where she finished right behind Bourgonje in two races in fourth and fifth, respectively. Her results were hardly a surprise; the 24-year-old University of Illinois student has 10 Paralympic medals in wheelchair racing and at least six marathon titles (including one in Boston and other in London this month). Despite a late start, she ranked 14th in the overall World Cup.
Brian McKeever (CAN)
Jody Barber (CAN)
Brian McKeever (CAN)
Andy Soule (USA)
Colette Bourgonje (CAN)