Olympics a dream come true for McKeever

Has won seven Paralympic medals

By BOB MACKIN, QMI Agency

CANMORE, Alta. — It is a dream come true for Brian McKeever.

The visually impaired cross-country skier was one of 11 athletes named to Canada’s Olympic team Friday at the Canmore Nordic Centre.

McKeever has been dreaming big — big enough to make the Olympic team — since 2005.

“It’s complete satisfaction,” said McKeever, 30. “To make this dream come true and watch the process unfold ... I can’t wait.”

McKeever has won seven Paralympic medals with his brother Robin as his skiing guide, but the 2010 Winter Games will mark his first stint on the Olympic team. It is also the first time a cross-country skier or any winter sport athlete will compete in both the Olympics and the Paralympics.

McKeever was diagnosed with Stargardt’s disease when he was 19. The disease, which forms macular degeneration, has left McKeever with 10% of his vision, and what is left is only peripheral.

“It’s interesting. Until you say those dreams out loud, they don’t seem real,” McKeever said. “I said it out loud and it was a shock to me. It was a dream that started way back when, despite the trouble with my eyes. There isn’t an athlete that hasn’t gone through something big, so hopefully this doesn’t detract from my teammates.

“They deserve as much attention as me.”

After McKeever set his goal in place, he started to prepare to make the team. He won the 50 km Olympic trial last month at a NorAm race at the Canmore Nordic Centre, proving that he has what it takes.

“I’m going to try to be in the best shape of my life,” McKeever said. “And by the end of the day, I’ll be able to say that I laid down the best races of my life.”

The coaches will decide who will compete in which races at the Olympics.

The first group of cross-country skiers will head to Vancouver Feb. 11, and the second group will travel there Feb. 13.

“We haven’t decided when Brian will be racing yet,” said Dave Woods, national team coach. “There’s a priority list of races for all of the team. Some are guaranteed starts and some are standby. We will race with the strongest people.”

The rest of Canada’s 2010 Olympic cross-country ski team includes George Gray, Ivan Babikov, Chandra Crawford, Stefan Kuhn, Madeleine Williams, Devon Kershaw, Perianne Jones, Dasha Gaiazova, Sara Renner and Alex Harvey

Senior development team coach Eric de Nys said he is not surprised by McKeever’s latest accomplishment.

“I have been around Brian for a long time and I know his work ethic,” de Nys said. “I’m quite happy that he did it.”

McKeever will also compete at the Paralympics with his brother Robin skiing as his guide.

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