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McKeever brothers net two gold medals

Canmore cross-country skiers lead way for Canadians at Paralympics



Pragelato, Italy - The skinny ski team of Brian and Robin McKeever came into the Paralympic Games favoured to win at least three medals in cross-country events and were pleasantly surprised when they also picked up a bronze in Tuesday’s 7.5 km biathlon – Brian, who competes in the visually impaired category with Robin as his guide, is not much of a shot.

The brothers, from Canmore, Alberta, came out of the gate in the men’s 10 km Wednesday in a full classic-style sprint, and didn’t let up the pace until they reached the halfway point with a comfortable gap of over 25 seconds on the Belarus team of Vasili Shaptsiaboi and guide Mikalai Shablousk.

Even then they only let up slightly, and by the end had secured their second gold medal of the Paralympics by a gap of 45 seconds.

"We put a lot into it from the beginning," said Robin. "As the guide I set the pace for us, and we started fairly aggressively and skied hard to the end.

"I saw we had a lead at the halfway mark, but the board is not always clear with splits and percentage, so we didn’t want to lay up."

On Sunday the McKeevers earned Canada’s first medal at the 2006 Paralympic Games in the visually impaired men’s 5 km. The brothers won with a 17-second gap over Frank Hoefle and guide Wachlin Johannes of Germany, and 40 seconds on the team of Flo Helge and guide Lonegard Thomas of Norway – a completely blind skier.

For the B3 category, which includes Brian, athletes are ranked according to their time. For athletes who rank B2 (partial vision) and B1 (blind), each athlete is assigned a percentage that essentially deducts time from their final result to even things up. Without a clear idea where the competitors are once their percentage is factored in, the McKeevers left nothing to chance Wednesday.

"We came into the stadium (after the first lap) confident where we were sitting, and did ease up a little on our second lap. We started to see some of our competition ahead of us, and skied their race for a bit, then put on a good burst of speed to get well past them because if they latched on it could be bad for us.

"One group had a two per cent advantage on us, and if we towed them into the finish line they would have beaten us."

For Brian McKeever it was a good day to race.

"It was a great day today, a perfect day for racing. The ski techs did a wonderful job getting our stuff ready, and it was really a lot of fun to be out there," he said.

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