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HISTORIC MEDAL – From left, Emily Young, Mark Arendz, Brian McKeever and Graham Nishikawa celebrate Canada’s first para-nordic relay bronze medal at the World Nordic Para Skiing Championships in Germany yesterday. Photo courtesy CANADA PARALYMPIC COMMITTEE

Nishikawa guides McKeever on the way to para-nordic relay bronze

Warm weather could’ve wrecked havoc on the skis of Canadian athletes,

By Marissa Tiel on February 16, 2017

Warm weather could’ve wrecked havoc on the skis of Canadian athletes, but an all-star team of ski technicians and good guiding allowed Brian McKeever to win the men’s 20-kilometre visually impaired classic cross-country ski race today in Germany.

A veteran of the Canadian Paralympic team, McKeever is the country’s most successful winter Paralympian, with 13 Paralympic medals, nine World Championship titles and 21 Para-Nordic World Cup victories since 2005.

McKeever, a visually impaired athlete, started his career with his older brother, Robin McKeever, as his guide. But an injury forced the elder McKeever into early retirement. Erik Carleton and Whitehorse’s Graham Nishikawa have stepped in as McKeever’s regular guides over the last two Olympic quadrennials.

Nishikawa, a former member of the Canadian cross-country national team, is guiding for McKeever at this week’s Para-Nordic World Ski Championships in Germany.

“Graham skied really, really well today. In fact he put me in an uncomfortable place for a large portion of the race, and I may have done the same for him in spots,” said McKeever. “There are different sections where we felt really good, and then others poorly. You are just comfortable with certain terrain, but it was really, really hot today and that just makes it tough to be relaxed when it is like that. It is a constant mental battle.”

The Canadian duo won the race in 57 minutes and 35.4 seconds. Sweden’s Zebastian Modin and guide J Anderson were second in 1:00:24.6. Norway’s Arvid Nelson and Eirik Bye took home bronze in 1:00:58.8.

The gold medal marks the second time in two days that McKeever and Nishikawa have stood on the podium.

Yesterday, they skied to a historic bronze medal in the relay alongside teammates Emily Young and Mark Arendz.

The duo skied both the opening and the anchor legs.

Canada’s previous best Para-Nordic relay finish at a major event was at the 2014 Paralympics in Sochi, when they were fourth.

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