Blind skier included in strong Canadian team

Fri Jan 22, 2010 4:42pm EST
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VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Brian McKeever became the first athlete to gain selection for a Winter Olympics and a Paralympics in the same year when he was included in a strong Canadian cross country team for next month's Vancouver Games.

McKeever, who suffers from Stargardt's disease and is legally blind, effectively booked his place on the 11-member squad by winning an able-bodied 50-km race in Canmore, Alberta last month.

The 30-year-old Canmore skier, who will also represent his country at the Paralympic Winter Games in March, was delighted with his double selection.

"It's important for people to know the Paralympics is as high as it gets," McKeever said in a statement released by Cross Country Canada on Friday.

"It is the Olympic Games for people with physical disabilities and I hope people will realize through my story the gap is not that big. Just because somebody has a disability doesn't mean they are not training hard or are extremely fit.

"I think the Paralympics is a great product. We have something worth watching and I hope my story will bring more attention to that."

McKeever, who because of macular degeneration has only 10 percent vision which is limited to peripheral, has won seven Paralympic medals alongside his brother Robin who acts as his guide.

At the Vancouver Games, however, McKeever will have to race alone.


<p>Brian McKeever speaks at a news conference after he was announced to the 2010 Winter Olympic Cross Country ski team in Canmore January 22, 2010. REUTERS/Todd Korol</p>