Blind skier makes Olympic history

Brian McKeever becomes first winter athlete to compete in Paralympics and Olympics.

    McKeever, left, with guide and brother Robin McKeever [GALLO/GETTY]
    Cross-country skier Brian McKeever has been selected for Canada's Vancouver Olympic team, making him the first winter sports athlete to compete in both the Olympics and Paralympics.

    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.

    McKeever has won seven Paralympic medals, including four gold, with his brother Robin as his guide.

    Aiming high

    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 realise 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.

    McKeever's vision functions at less than 10 percent and is only peripheral.

    He won the 50-km race last month to meet the Olympic team criteria.

    When he competes in able-bodied events, he finds another skier of the same
    ability to follow as a guide.

    Five athletes - all in summer sports - have competed in the Paralympics and Olympics: South African swimmer Natalie du Toit (amputee), American runner Marla Runyan (visually impaired), Polish table tennis player Natalia Partyka (born without right hand and forearm), Italian archer Paola Fantato (polio) and New Zealand archer Neroli Fairhall (paraplegic).

    SOURCE: Agencies


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