VUOKATTI, Fin. Brian McKeever took another stride forward in his goal of becoming the first winter-sport athlete to compete in both the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.
Fresh off competing in the Alberta World Cup where he finished amongst the top-40 against the best cross-country skiers in the world on Friday, the 28-year-old McKeever and his brother and guide Robin hopped a plane to Finland to join their Canadian mates on the Para-Nordic World Cup.
Jet leg certainly was no problem. The McKeever brothers handily won their first Para-Nordic World Cup title of the season after posting a time of 47 minutes 28.8 seconds in the men’s 20-kilometer skate-ski distance race for the visually impaired.
McKeever made history last year after skiing in his first-ever able-bodied World Championships where he finished 24th in a 15-kilometer skate-skiing race.
The McKeever brothers, who hail from Canmore, Alta., were joined on the podium Sunday by Russia’s Nikolay Polukhin and Andrey Tokarev were second at 51:15.7, while Germany’s Frank Hoefle and Walter Kuss were third (51:16.3).
The medal haul for Canada began long before the McKeever’s arrived in Finland. Colette Bourgonje won a gold medal in Saturday’s sit-ski sprint race. Bourgonje, who is from Saskatoon, also won two bronze medals in the opening IPC World Cup of the season last week.
A 15-year veteran of the Canadian Para-Nordic Team and five-time Paralympian, Bourgonje won two bronze medals at the 2006 Paralympics and two silver medals at the 1998 Games in Japan.
American Chris Klebl finished 7th in the men's sprint. Teammate Bob Balk also advanced to the B-Final, finishing just behind Klebl in 8th. Sean Halstead was eliminated in the quarterfinals and finished the day in 13th. Greg Mallory and Andy Soule took places 20 and 24 respectively and did not advance to the heats.
In the 20km event, Klebl just missed out on the podium, finishing fourth in the sit-ski category. Soule was 10th.
Klebl was coming off several strong days of racing in Dusseldorf, Germany last week, winning the men's sit-ski 10K in any extremely close finish. He won with an adjusted time of 28:57.6 followed by Italian Enzo Masiello at 29:04.5 and Irek Zaripov of Russia at 29:04.7. Klebl added another podium in the 15km sit ski, taking the second spot.
A detailed account, including additional excellent US finishes can be read at www.firsttracksonline.com
The IPC World Cup is divided into three categories for the various disabilities including: visually impaired, sit-skiing, and standing amputation and limb disability.
Contributing Sources: Cross-Country Canada, FirstTracksOnline.com