Inside, outside Canadian stars shine in parasport

March 21, 2016

Whether it was outdoors at the IPC Nordic Skiing or Snowboard World Cups or indoors at the UCI Para-Cycling Track World Championships, Canadian athletes produced more medal performances this past week.


Brian McKeever (centre) with gold medal

Brian McKeever of Canmore and his guide Graham Nishikawa of Whitehorse won gold in their only two World Cup para-nordic skiing races this season at the finale in Vuokatti, Finland.

McKeever and Nishikawa won the 30-kilometre event on Saturday and the 10 kilometre race on Sunday. The Canadian duo faced an 11-pair field in the marathon and 19 entries in the middle distance.

 “Once we got going I really settled in and started to feel good,” said the 36-year-old McKeever, a 10-time Paralympic Games champion. “I am not really good judging the pace in the 10-kilometre races. These distances are Nish’s bread and butter so he was super good today, setting a quick pace from the start – almost too good.”

It was the only two IPC World Cup starts of the season for McKeever, who spent the majority of his year trying to earn a spot on Canada’s able-bodied squad for the Ski Tour Canada.

Chris Klebl of Canmore added a silver in the men’s sitting marathon, his first podium performance of the season. “I’m glad I was able to put things together when it mattered today,” said Klebl. “I had put in a solid block of training leading into this race. It has been a long year with few races. We had great skis and I’m happy to be able to deliver today.”

Emily Weekes of North Vancouver also posted two top-five finishes in the women’s races while Mark Arendz of Hartsville, PEI was fourth and fifth in the 7.5-kilometre and 15-kilometre biathlon events.

Four medals for Canada at para-cycling track worlds

Daniel Chalifour

In Montichiari, Italy, Tristen Chernove of Cranbrook, B.C., attending his first track world championships, won gold medals in the C2 individual pursuit and 1000m time trial events.  Canada also took a silver medal and a bronze medal at these championships, the final qualifying event for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio later this September.

‘’It's hard to be here and not be blown away by the level of athleticism,’’ said Chernove, diagnosed with CMT (Charcot Marie Tooth), a degenerative nervous system disorder, in 2009. ‘’Every athlete works to overcome challenges, but here the challenges are so visible, and you see how adaptive people have to be. It's awe-inspiring. Obviously, anytime you accomplish what you were going for it feels great.  I'm just thankful to all the people who got me here.”

In the men's C1 individual pursuit, Ross Wilson of Edmonton added silver dropping the final to arch-rival Zhangyu Li of China.  Wilson significantly closed the time gap on Li from the previous year, as he builds towards the Paralympic Games.
“I knew I was on really good form coming into this event,’’ said Wilson. ‘’Having the chance to work in the Milton Velodrome has allowed us to move forward and really develop my track riding skills.  I didn't expect to be within striking distance of a world record.”

Daniel Chalifour of Mont-Laurier, Que., and his guide Jean-Michel Lachance snared bronze in the men’s tandem pursuit defeating Britain in the bronze medal race. “Today we did the two best times that we have ever done, which was amazing,” said Chalifour. “I would like to thank Jean-Michel, who has just joined me in this adventure after my previous pilot Alex [Cloutier] could not participate.  You need to have two athletes dedicated to this job 100%.’’

Racing season wraps up for para-snowboard

Michelle Salt. Photo by: Natasja Vos

Michelle Salt of Calgary placed second three times and added a third-place finish at the last two World Cup para-snowboard events this month in Les Angles, France and Trentino, Italy. On the men’s side, Alex Massie of Barrie, Ont., and John Leslie of Arnprior, Ont., were third and fourth at the snowboard cross event in Trentino. Those were the last World Cups this season

Men’s sitting volleyball team competing in China at Rio qualifier

Sitting Volleyball

At the 2016 World ParaVolley Intercontinental Tournament sitting volleyball tournament in Huzhou, China, the Canadian men have two wins and four losses in round robin play so far. Canada needs to be the best non-qualified team of the tournament to get to the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio. On the women’s side, Canada is 1-4. The Canadian women qualified for the Paralympic Games by winning the bronze medal at the Parapan Am Games in Toronto last year. The tournament ends Wednesday.