The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Biathlon and Cross-Country World Championships are currently underway in Khanty Mansisk, Russia. With four of eight race days completed, Russia has stood out as the dominant force, leading the overall medal count with 25. Ukraine is second with nine.
The Canadian team has won four medals – though they are all of the gold variety. Veteran Brian McKeever has led the way with two of those wins, skiing in the visually impaired category with a new guide – Erik Carleton. McKeever’s longtime partner, brother Robin, is out with a torn ACL.
The switch has not slowed Brian, and he won both the 10k skate and 20k classic races.
Colette Bourgonje and Chris Klebl took gold in the 10/15km sit-ski event rounding out the Canadian medal performances thus far.
For the US Sean Halstead has been busy, racing both biathlon and cross-country. He finished 10th in the 15km cross-country sit-ski and 14th in the 3k biathlon sprint, and 14th again in the 10km sit-ski He was joined in all three races by teammate Daniel Cnossen.
Neither man qualified for the biathlon pursuit but will have the opportunity to race both the long distance biathlon and remaining xc events.
On the women’s side, Kelly Underkofler finished seventh in the 5km skate for the US. Canadian Jody Barber took fourth in that race.
Press releases from Cross-Country Canada
Canada’s Brian McKeever Wins Gold with New Guide at IPC Cross Country Skiing World Championships
Khanty Mansiysk, RUS—Canada’s Brian McKeever continued his dominance of the IPC World Championships despite having a new man in front guiding him to the top of the podium.
The 31-year-old McKeever of Canmore, Alta., teamed up with childhood ski friendErik Carleton of Calgary, to win the gold medal in the men’s 10-kilometre visually impaired skate-ski race at the IPC World Championships on Sunday in Khanty Mansiyski, Russia. The Canadian duo, who grew up skiing and racing together in Alberta clocked a winning time of 24 minutes, 28.5 seconds.
“We skied a good controlled race from start to finish,” said McKeever, who was competing in his first IPC competition since winning three gold medals at the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games. “Having not raced on the IPC circuit this year there was some stress and uncertainty coming into this competition. That is now gone, and we can focus on skiing hard and enjoying the rest of the events. Erik skied smoothly and we worked well together.
With his brother Robin McKeever, who has guided him to 10 Paralympic medals including seven gold, forced to the sidelines with a torn ACL, the younger McKeever tapped on the shoulder of longtime buddy in 33-year-old Carleton to fill in and carry the torch at the IPC World Championships.
“We had a good plan to ski controlled, and see where the competition was in relation to us,” said Carleton following his first race. “We stuck to the plan and it worked out.”
Carleton and the younger McKeever were introduced to skiing at the same time when they signed up for a Jackrabbit ski program in Calgary. The two began racing together at the age of 13, and the friends became roommates when they moved to Canmore after eventually qualifying for the National Development Team.
McKeever and Carleton were joined on the podium by Russia’s Nikolay Polukhin and Andrey Tokarev, who locked up the silver with a time of 25:14.3. Mikalai Shablouski, of Belarus, guided Vasili Shaptsiaboi to the bronze medal at 25:48.5.
Canada had a stellar day in the middle distance cross-country ski races on Sunday with two athletes also finishing fourth and one in sixth.
Jody Barber, of Smithers, B.C., had an excellent race finishing just 16 seconds out of a podium spot in fourth place. The 2010 Paralympian clocked a time of 16:23.6 in the women’s five-kilometre skate-ski race in the women’s standing division. Poland’s Katarzyna Rogowiec won the category after posting a time of 14:54.3.
Chris Klebl, of Canmore, Alta., also stormed into fourth spot. Klebl, who joined the Canadians from the American program this year, narrowly missed the podium in the men’s 10-kilometre sit-ski race. Klebl clocked-in at 24:57.0. The men’s sit-ski division was won by Russia’s Irek Zaripov with a time of 24:31.0.
Six-time Paralympic medallist, Colette Bourgonje of Saskatoon, rounded out the Canadian charge. The six-time Paralympian finished sixth in her first race of the season after posting a time of 14:11.2 in an extremely tight women’s five-kilometre sit-ski race.
Liudmila Vauchok, of Belarus, won the women’s sit-ski race with a time of 13:48.0.
Canada’s Brian McKeever Wins Back-to-Back Gold at IPC Cross Country Skiing World Championships
Khanty Mansiysk, RUS—Canada’s Brian McKeever remained perfect after battling through challenging conditions to win the men’s visually impaired distance race at the IPC Cross-Country Skiing World Championships in Khanty Mansiysk, Russia on Monday.
With changing conditions challenging the best wax technicians, McKeever, of Canmore, Alta., and his new guide in childhood friend Erik Carleton, powered through the five centimetres of new snow and challenging winds to win the men’s 20-kilometre classic-ski race with a time of 53 minutes, 26.7 seconds.
“That was a hard race today,” said the 31-year-old McKeever. “We were behind after the second lap, but I wasn’t too worried because I felt like I still had something left in the tank and our skis were running well.”
McKeever and Carleton cranked up the tempo in the third of four laps where he bettered the Russian team by 30 seconds to take the lead, and never looked back. Russia’s Nikolay Polukhin and Andrey Tokarev won the silver for the second-straight day with a time of 54:10.0. Russia’s Alexei Toropov and Sergey Maksimov locked up third spot at 58:42.2.
“The wax techs did a great job on the skis keeping us in the hunt for the medals today,” said McKeever. Erik skied really strong, keeping me out of the winds for aslong as possible which allowed me to have the energy for the final two laps.”
Jody Barber, of Smithers, B.C., had another solid finish in the women’s standing 15-kilometre classic-ski race. Barber, who has won five World Cup medals throughout her career, clocked a time of 57:24.4. Oleksandra Kononova, of the Ukraine, won the women’s standing division after clocking-in at 50:43.1.
Mark Arendz, of Springton, P.E.I., who finished second overall in the men’s standing biathlon IPC World Cup this year, finished 10th in the men’s 20-kilometre classic-ski standing race. The 21-year-old, who was fourth in the opening pursuit race at the IPC World Championships, clocked a time of 1:01:33.1.
The men’s standing category was won by Russia’s Kirill Mikhaylov with a time of 53:53.0.
Canadian Para-Nordic Sit Skiers Make History Winning Double Gold at IPC World Championships
Khanty Mansiysk, RUS—For the first time in the history of Para-Nordic skiing, Canada swept the golden step of the podium in men’s and women’s sit-ski racing at the IPC World Championships with Colette Bourgonje and Chris Klebl capturing the title ofWorld Champion in Khanty Mansiysk, Russia on Tuesday.
Saskatoon’s Bourgonje, who was a double silver medallist at the 2003 World Championships, captured her first world title after leading wire-to-wire in the women’s 10-kilometre sit-ski category with a time of 26 minutes, 56.0 seconds.
Bourgonje is one of the most successful athletes in the Canadian Para-Nordic program. An eight-time Paralympian in both the summer and winter Games, Bourgonje has eight medals under her belt including two from the 2010 Paralympics where she won a bronze and silver medal. Bourgonje was also awarded the Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award at the Vancouver Paralymipcs – a prestigious award recognizing individuals who conquer adversities through the pursuit of excellence in sport.
Bourgonje was joined on the podium by Liudmila Vauchok, of Belarus, who finished second with a time of 27:05.7, and Germany’s Andrea Eskau, who locked up the bronze medal after clocking-in at 27:49.6.
The golden trail to the podium continued for Canada in the men’s 15-kilometre sit-ski event. Klebl, who moved to Canmore, Alta. to join the Canucks from the United States this year, also led wire-to-wire to capture his first international title. A two-time Paralympian, Klebl set the time to beat at 35:34.6.
“To win at this level you need everything to come together with favourable courses, fast skis and great performances,” said Robin McKeever, coach, Canadian Para-Nordic Team. “Today, we had it all. It is one of the most successful days in the history of our program.”
Klebl, who grew up in Austria where he skied and snowboarded became paralyzed from the waist down in 1995 in a snowboarding accident. Hestarted competing in cross-country skiing in 2005, and finished fourth overall on the World Cup in 2011 with one World Cup bronze medal.
Klebl was joined on the podium by Russia’s Irek Zaripov who grabbed the silver with a time of 35:43.6 and Italy’s Enzo Masiello in the bronze-medal position at 36:15.7.
Tuesday’s performances have added to a golden week for Canada’s para-nordic athletes. In addition to a handful of fourth-place finishes, Canada’s Para-Nordic squad have racked up four gold medals at the mid-way point of the 2011 IPC World Championships.