|Canadaís Brian McKeever (right) and his brother and guide Robin celebrate after taking the gold medal during the menís 20-km. cross-country visual impaired at the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games in Whistler, on Monday, March 15. (REUTERS/Andy Clark)
WHISTLER -- Brian McKeever won Canada’s first gold medal of the 2010 Winter Paralympics Monday in 20-kilometre freestyle visually impaired cross-country skiing.
"That’s the one we really wanted," said McKeever of Canmore, Alta. "It’s been eight years in the making."
McKeever, whose brother Robin McKeever is his guide, won silver in the race at Salt Lake 2002 and Turin 2006.
Nikolay Polukhin of Russia was the silver medallist. Bronze went to Vasili Shaptsiaboi of Belarus.
Legally blind McKeever had been waiting to race cross-country on the Callaghan Valley trails since the end of February when he was cut from the Canadian Olympic team on the last weekend of the Games. Cross-Country Canada coaches opted to start the team’s best four racers.
"We’re never going to forget what happened, but this helps us to move on and we’ve got more racing yet to go," he said.
McKeever was sixth in the 3 km pursuit biathlon on Saturday. He is scheduled to race in the men’s cross-country 1 km sprint classic and 10 km classic and compete in the men’s 12.5 km biathlon.
John Furlong, chief executive of the Vancouver Games’ organizing committee, was at the cross-country stadium to witness McKeever’s win.
"The laws of natural justice are prevailing and things are unfolding the way they should," Furlong said. "Given what happened during the Olympic Games, it couldn’t fall to a more worthy person."