March 17, 2013, Sochi, Rus (ISN) – The Irish eyes were smiling on Brian McKeever and Erik Carleton as the Canadian duo skied to the gold medal in the first para-nordic event on the trails in Sochi, Russia on Sunday.
The 33-year-old McKeever, and his guide Carleton – both of Canmore, Alta. – hunted down the world’s best para-nordic skiers through foggy and wet conditions to take the men’s visually-impaired title on the narrow 1.5-kilometre skate-ski sprint course.
“We had a good strategy that worked perfectly today,” said McKeever, who holds 10 Paralympic medals, including seven gold. “I was feeling sluggish in the qualifier, but felt better in each of the heats. I was able to get ahead of the main group at just the right time. Erik then took me to the finish.”
Russia took the other medals thanks to Stanislav Chokhlaev and guide Maxim Pirogov who finished second ahead of Aleksei Toropov and guide Evgenii Fatkhullin in third.
Canada had four other Canadians in action on Sunday. Saskatoon’s Colette Bourgonje qualified for the heats in sixth place, but was eliminated in the semifinals in the women’s sit-ski category. Biathlon specialist, Mark Arendz of Springton, P.E.I., also made it to the heats but was forced to the sidelines after a strong quarter-final round, placing eighth.
Chris Klebl, of Canmore, Alta., did not secure a spot in the men’s sit-ski race, finishing 14th. Development skier Margarita Gorbounova, of Ottawa, and her guide Phil Wood, did not qualify for the head-to-head heats, placing seventh in the women’s visually impaired sprint race.
Saturday’s races were cancelled due to extreme winds that wreaked havoc on the Paralympic courses. Determined to pull off a good race, organizers did an exceptional job cleaning up the damage to get the trails back into top shape. Saturday’s long distance race has been rescheduled for Monday.
Live coverage of each medal event can be found at www.ParalympicSport.TV. Competition and live coverage will start at 08:00 CET. Daily reports of all the action will also be published at www.ipc-nordicskiing.org
The Sochi 2014 Paralympic Games will take place between March 7-16, and are set to feature 700 athletes from 45 countries. Athletes will compete in five sports – alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country skiing, ice sledge hockey and wheelchair curling. Para- snowboard will make its Games debut as part of the alpine skiing programme.
Cross Country Canada is the governing body of cross-country skiing in Canada, which is the nation’s optimal winter sport and recreational activity with more than one million Canadians participating annually. Its 55,000 members include athletes, coaches, officials and skiers of all ages and abilities, including those on Canada’s National Ski Teams and Para-Nordic Ski Teams. With the support of its valued corporate partners – Haywood Securities, AltaGas, Statoil and Canadian Pacific – along with the Government of Canada, Canadian Olympic Committee, Canadian Paralympic Committee, Own the Podium and B2ten, Cross Country Canada develops Olympic, Paralympic and world champions. For more information on Cross Country Canada, please visit us at www.cccski.com