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McKeever guns for silver

Brian McKeever is no one trick pony.
Brian McKeever races at the recent national cross-country championships in Canmore.
Brian McKeever races at the recent national cross-country championships in Canmore.

Brian McKeever is no one trick pony.

The nation’s top IPC (International Paralympic Committee) cross-country skier switched to biathlon on Sunday (April 10) and claimed a silver medal in the men’s visually impaired biathlon world championships in Khanty Masiysk, Russia.

McKeever shocked the competition as a last-minute addition to the race. Skiing with guide Erik Carleton, the duo clocked a time of 41:57.3 on the 12.5 kilometre course.

“I just tried to remember everything I had been taught and took my time on the range today,” McKeever said. “Since I don’t shoot that often, I knew I had to ski a little slower than normal and take my time in the range so I didn’t miss too many targets. It paid off and we are really happy.”

The medal was McKeever’s fourth at the world championships, having won three golds in the cross-country ski distance events with Carleton. The Canmore resident, who lost 90 per cent of his vision due to Stargardt’s disease when he was 19, was pleased with the result. He only had a limited period of practice time on the Russian course.

Blind biathletes use a special rifle set up with an acoustic riflescope and infrared beam that converts light into sound. The biathletes wear a headset and hear a tone that tells them if they are too far left or right. The athletes must then ‘aim’ with their ears.

It wasn’t McKeever’s first foray into biathlon, however it’s hardly a specialty for the Canmore native. He only missed two shots in four rounds of shooting for a respectable 18/20. McKeever is traditionally a distance skier as well, preferring 50 km to 12 km races.

Russians Nikolay Polukhin and Andrey Tokarev won the race. The duo was well ahead of the Canadian skiers and posted a time of 38:22.1.

Mark Arendz, 21, ranked second in the world in the IPC standing event, just missed the podium for the fourth time this week. Arendz finished fourth in the 12.5 km standing event in a time of 40:15.3.

The Canadian team returns home with seven medals (five gold, two silvers). McKeever won four medals alone, however, the most emotional win went to sit skiers Chris Klebl and Colette Bourgonje. Klebl won his first international title, while Bourgonje, an eight-time paralympian, also won her first world title. Coach Robin McKeever called the win one of the most successful weeks in the program’s history.

The province also honoured McKeever as the top male amateur athlete of the year on April 8 during the Alberta Leadership Summit in Banff. McKeever won three gold medals at the 2010 Paralympics along with his brother, and was selected to the Canadian Olympic team, but did not compete at the Vancouver Olympics. He was not on hand to accept the award.

Rocky Mountain Outlook

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