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Brotherly ties bind McKeevers as they win first gold

Robin McKeever didn’t think twice when his brother asked him to be his guide



For Robin McKeever, the perhaps lesser known of the now famous McKeever brothers, the decision was simple.

An Olympian himself, he knew all about the drive to push your body to its physical limits, to have that goal in mind of winning gold. And he knew just how much his younger brother Brian, who was losing his eyesight, loved to ski because it was exactly the same way he felt about skiing.

So, nine years ago when a nervous Brian, six years his junior, approached Robin to be his guide in his quest to be a Paralympian, his answer was "yes."

"It was just a natural step for me to guide my younger brother," said Robin, his newest gold medal hanging round his neck, his brother Brian by his side, his arms around Robin's shoulders at a packed Whistler Canada Paralympic House on Monday. "There's only the two of us in the family and he was just dealt a bad hand with eyesight whereas I was dealt a good hand. We had a 50/50 chance and that's the odds."

That decision to guide has since transformed into eight Paralympic medals for the pair, the latest of which was a gold, won on home soil just south of Whistler in the Callaghan Valley - the first gold by Canadian athletes at the 2010 Paralympic Games.

It's a special gold for them.

"It's a bit of a monkey off our back because that's the one we've never won, the 20 km," said Brian McKeever, who is 30 years old. "It's our third attempt at it in eight years."

Plus, it comes after a roller coaster two months of emotional ups and downs when Brian thought he would be competing in the Olympics, only to have his hopes dashed at the 11 th hour.

To have the gold around his neck more than makes up for that disappointment.

But the long road to Monday's gold medal hasn't always been easy.

It began in 2001. Back then Robin was in his prime, on the national team, having raced for Canada at the 1998 Nagano Games. Brian, who was diagnosed with Stargardt's disease at 18 and now has about eight per cent vision, simply wasn't up to his level when they began skiing together.

"That was me yelling at him to wait!" described Brian of their partnership eight years ago.

One of their first times racing together as a team was at the Salt Lake IPC World Cup final in March 2001. Brian ended up headfirst down a steep embankment. The experience, however, had a somewhat happier ending; the brothers went on the win the World Cup together the following day.

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