The team has made it special for Brian McKeever

Canadian Paralympic Committee

March 11, 2022

Retiring Para nordic legend down to last two Paralympic races in Beijing


BEIJING – Para nordic skiing is regarded as an individual sport but one of the factors that’s kept Canada’s legendary Paralympian Brian McKeever so long in the competition ring is the emphasis on ‘’team’’ in the national program.

It is therefore fitting that McKeever will race for the last time at a Paralympic Games on Sunday in the relay and say farewell with a couple of teammates by his side.

‘’We promote team as one of the biggest things within our program,’’ said McKeever, 42, Canada’s most successful Winter Paralympian with 19 medals and counting, including 15 gold over six Games dating back to 2022. ‘’Even athletes from other nations will come up and tell us what a tightknit group we are.

‘’We’re friends on and off the field and support each other in victory or defeat. That’s important because we are often living together in tight quarters when travelling and training. We’ve managed that well and created that shared caring that makes us better as a group.’’

With the pandemic wiping out most of the 2020 and 2021 seasons, McKeever found not having that camaraderie and support was one of the toughest aspects of the lockdown.

‘’The lockdown was more disruptive mentally than physically,’’ he said. ‘’We were still able to get outside and do our work, but it wasn’t the same. Travelling somewhere else is really refreshing and it makes you love coming back home even more to train just as hard.’’

At age 19, McKeever was diagnosed with Stargardt disease (a macular degeneration or loss of central vision). He was already on the national radar in cross country skiing and competed at the junior nationals.

As his vision deteriorated, he moved to the Paralympic side and competed at three Games with his brother Robin as his guide. Their relationship was featured this year in a Toyota commercial that was premiered during last month’s Super Bowl.

Another career highlight for McKeever was in 2010. He made history as the first athlete named to both the Olympic and Paralympic teams. He did not start in the Olympic races in Whistler, but a month later collected three gold medals at the Paralympics.

He combined forces with Graham Nishikawa as his guide in 2014, with Russell Kennedy joining the team as of 2018. McKeever was sometimes so fast, that both guides were involved in longer distance races.

McKeever’s success over the years has spearheaded Canada’s Para nordic team into one of the very best in the world. At the 2018 Games in PyeongChang, Para nordic skiers (cross country and biathlon) won 16 of Canada’s team record 28 medals. As of the end of competition Friday, they are at 11 in Beijing with races still remaining.

He’s delighted to leave a legacy that will keep Canada among the world powers for many more years and Games.

‘’They’ve already taken the torch,’’ McKeever said of his teammates in Beijing. ‘’You can really see the growth on the team both on and off the trails. They have come out of their shells a bit more, they are individuals and very much committed to being 100 percent high performance athletes.’’

Prior to Sunday’s relay, McKeever looks to hit the 20-medal career mark in the men’s vision impaired middle-distance cross country race on Saturday. He says he plans to end his competitive career progressively rather than stop abruptly after the Games and may continue for a season or two.

He’s not sure what the future holds whether it includes staying involved in the sport or going in another direction career-wise entirely.

Whatever his decision, McKeever has cemented his legacy in Canadian sports history.

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