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Paralympics-History beckons for veteran skier McKeever in final Paralympic race

Randy Mancini 7 Mar 10
Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympic Games - Para Cross-Country Skiing
Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympic Games - Para Cross-Country Skiing - Men's Sprint Free Technique Vision Impaired Final - National Biathlon Centre, Zhangjiakou, China - March 9, 2022. Brian McKeever of Canada in action. REUTERS/Issei Kato

March 10, 2022

By Dhruv Munjal

ZHANGJIAKOU, China (Reuters) – Cross-country skier Brian McKeever entered the mainstream after featuring in a Super Bowl commercial last month and the Canadian can now become the joint most successful male winter Paralympian of all time.

McKeever won a staggering 15th Paralympic gold medal at the Beijing Games on Wednesday, and the 42-year-old can tie German Gerd Schonfelder’s record at the weekend in what will be his final race at the Games.

“I will try to enjoy it… for me, I’ve never been concerned about winning medals. That’s not the goal. Obviously we can only control what we do,” McKeever, participating in his sixth Paralympics, told Reuters.

“It’s always been about enjoying your career and trying to get to as many Games as possible. The four years leading up to the Paralympics are a lot of hard work and you have to be enjoying that process.”

McKeever, who competes in cross-country skiing in the vision impaired class, began losing his eyesight at age 19 due to a rare genetic disease. He said his father, who was diagnosed with it as a child, helped him deal with that setback.

Family has been a steady support for McKeever — his older brother Robin, a former Olympic cross-country skier, was his longtime guide as the pair won nine Paralympic medals together and caught the wider public’s eye after featuring in an advertisement for Toyota last month.

“It’s pretty crazy to be on a Super Bowl commercial, it’s one of the biggest sporting events in the world… and people watch it just for the commercials at times. So that’s pretty crazy, but a special thing,” said McKeever.

“We’ve heard a lot about the fact that representation matters. I’ve got a lot of messages from people with Stargardt’s (disease)… they feel like our story is their story and it means a lot to know you have an impact on people.”

While McKeever, who came close to representing Canada in both the Winter Olympics and Paralympics back in 2010, intends to stop racing competitively at the Games, he isn’t completely going away just yet.

“I wouldn’t rule out maybe coming back at the Games as a coach, or as a wax technician, or even as a fan. I do love this sport and I will be involved.”

“This probably won’t be my last race… I’m not planning to retire immediately. It’s more of a slow fade away.”

(Reporting by Dhruv Munjal; Editing by Toby Davis)