Visually impaired cross-country skier Brian McKeever has won Canada’s first gold medal of the Paralympics.
He finished first in Monday’s 20-kilometre race for the visually impaired with a time 51 minutes 14.7 seconds. Nikolay Polukhin of Russia was second in 51:55.6 while Vasiki Shaptsiaboi was third in 52:22.5.
It’s been a roller-coaster winter for McKeever.
The 30-year-old native of Canmore, Alta., qualified for the Canadian Olympic team in January and was poised to become the first winter sport athlete to compete in both the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
But last month’s Olympics ended in heartbreak for McKeever after the Canadian coaching staff decided not to start him in his event, the gruelling 50 kilometres.
“I keep saying it hurts as much as the day I was told I was going to lose my eyesight,” McKeever said prior to the Paralympics. “That’s how big it was for me. It was huge, crushing.
“But I got over the eyes. I will get over this.”
McKeever has Stargaard’s disease, a genetic disease that has reduced his vision to about 10 per cent, all of which is peripheral.
It’s the fifth Paralympic gold for McKeever, who races with brother Robin as his guide. He also has two silvers and one bronze in his collection.
He won two gold, a silver and a bronze at the 2006 Turin Paralympics.
McKeever finished sixth in his first Paralympic race Saturday, the three-kilometre biathlon pursuit.