Wood Defends Decision on McKeever

Nathaniel HerzFebruary 28, 20102

As much as anyone might begrudge Team Canada coaches Dave Wood and National Inge Braten’s decision to sit Brian McKeever in Sunday’s 50 k classic, it’s hard to disagree with the fact that the two were presented with an agonizing choice.

While starting McKeever would have meant making history—the Canadian would have been the first athlete to compete in both the winter Olympics and Paralympics—it also would have meant holding a potential medal contender out of the race. Devon Kershaw, Alex Harvey, George Grey, and Ivan Babikov are all skiing well, and each has a legitimate—if small—chance for the podium in the 50 k.

Wood said that he expected for one of those four to be run down by this point, two weeks into the Games—that’s why there was a reasonable belief that McKeever would get a start in the first place.

“Normally, that happens,” he said. “Since 2003, I don’t think we’ve ever made four guys in the 50 k. There’s always something [that] happens—guys run out of gas, they get sick, they get hurt.”

But with those four all healthy and fired up to compete, Wood said that there’s no holding them back. And at this level, the only kind of history coaches get credit for making is when they win.

“It’s quite hard for us to put guys that are skiing, you know, they’ve all been top-ten—to put them on the bench,” he said. “It’s nothing against Brian, but they’re better.”

While McKeever may have won the 50 k at the Canadian Olympic team trials in December, none of the four starters for Sunday’s event competed in that race.

Wood downplayed the significance of the whole situation, saying that all the attention turns it into a “sideshow,” and distracts from the team’s main focus.

“It’s not really making history—he’s been at World Championships, he’s been on the World Cup,” he said. “It’s something that I think [is] difficult to manage in the team, too, because we’re here to race at the Olympics.”

While a start for McKeever would hold significance for the media, he added, “tomorrow that’s gone—and we can’t sell that to anybody.”

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Nathaniel Herz

Nat Herz is an Alaska-based journalist who moonlights for FasterSkier as an occasional reporter and podcast host. He was FasterSkier's full-time reporter in 2010 and 2011.

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  • cpella

    February 28, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    I’ll take a stab at decoding this. The bottom line is funding. Canada has done nothing in nordic sports so far in terms of producing podium results, which in terms of sports funding bodies is all that counts. Alpine skiing hasn’t fared well but that seems to be an untouchable. They missed their best chances, which were in the sprint relay and team relay. In the Canadian sport funding system, you are only as good as your last podium result. So coach Woods doesn’t care about the media response, because the media doesn’t fund the team. The nordic team was dead in the water until Beckie Scott’s result in the Salt Lake City, according to CCC’s own material. So now, even though they’ve had the best results ever on the men’s side, it may not mean much without a medal.

  • sully

    February 28, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    Brian McKeever is an athlete. The coaches showed him the ultimate respect in not factoring in his “handicap” when deciding who would start today. He made the team based on his skiing, and , tough as it may be, he sat today based on skiing. That happens in sports, and Brian can be proud to have been part of a great Canadian Olympic Team.

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