—Klebl, McKeever along with guides Carleton and Nishikawa ski to fourth—
SOCHI, Rus.—Brian McKeever and Chris Klebl formed a one-two Canadian punch to finish fourth in open 4x2.5 kilometre relay on Saturday at the Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi.
The two Canmore, Alta. residents teamed up to ski two legs each in the unique mixed relay format, which requires each team to have a minimum of two (men or women) skiers and maximum of four. Athletes are given percentages based on their disability classification. Competing in their first-ever relay at the Paralympics, the Canadians posted a time of 25:51.9.
“It is a unique format and unpredictable because you are skiing against many people for the first time and in all classifications, but we gave it a good shot today and should be happy,” said McKeever. “Chris was strong and I also felt good, but we just ran out of a gas a bit at the end and came up a bit short of the podium.”
Russia won the open relay with a time of 24:22.8. The Ukraine skied to the silver at 25:17.9, while France held off the charging Canucks to win the bronze medal with a time of 25:30.3.
Mother Nature continued to play games with the world’s best para-Nordic skiers at the Laura Ski and Biathlon Centre. With snow temperatures hovering around the freezing point, the rapidly changing weather from sun to overcast got the best of the Canadians. The snow conditions changed from the warm-up, and tricked Klebl in the first corner of his opening leg, dumping the three-time Paralympian on his side.
“It was really tricky. When the sun is out it is like mashed potatoes and then hardens up when the clouds roll in,” added McKeever. “Chris had some tough luck, but he did a great job. It was fun for all of us to give it a shot today.”
McKeever continued to leverage both guides here with him in Sochi. The 12-time Paralympic medallist skied the opening leg with Erik Carleton, of Canmore, Alta., and the anchor leg with Graham Nishikawa, of Whitehorse.
“The job isn’t over yet,” said Carleton. “We had a good day today, but we have one more race tomorrow and we will now be sure to get ready for it.”
McKeever and company will look to win their third gold medal of the week on Sunday when they hit the start line for the final Nordic race of the 2014 Games.
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