April 08, 2011 (Khanty Mansiysk, Russia) – The Canadian Para-Nordic Ski Team continued its podium surge at the IPC Cross-Country Skiing World Championships adding another gold and silver medal in the men’s sprint races on Friday in Khanty Mansiysk, Russia.
Brian McKeever, of Canmore, Alta., and his new guide Erik Carleton, of Calgary, continued their dominance of the men’s visually impaired category by handily winning the sprint event. A 10-time Paralympic medallist, McKeever posted the fastest qualifying time and rolled through the head-to-head heats until the final where he was matched up against two strong Russian teams.
With skiers provided a time advantage off the line based on their level of disability, it becomes a game of cat and mouse for McKeever who is forced to hunt down the other athletes on the sprint loop as the fastest skiers start well back. McKeever caught the three teams in front of him just prior to the finishing stretch where he pulled away to win by four seconds.
“The stress of para-nordic sprint racing for me is not whether or not we are faster than other skiers, but whether we can pass three other competitors and their guides,” said McKeever who executed his tactics perfectly with Carleton leading the way. “The course is tight, narrow and the conditions were difficult today so I’m happy we were able to do that. Erik is skiing great and things are going really well.”
McKeever and Carleton were sandwiched on the podium by two Russian teams. Nikolay Polukhin and Andrey Tokarev captured the silver medal, while Alexei Toropov and his guide, Sergey Maksimov, sprinted to the bronze-medal position on the podium.
The track to the podium continued for the Canadians in the men’s sit-ski race where Chris Klebl powered his way to the silver medal.
Klebl, who resides in Canmore, Alta. followed up his historic sit-ski race on Wednesday when he won the nation’s first-ever gold medal in the distance event, with a silver medal in a hard-fought sprint competition Friday.
The two-time Paralympian qualified for the final despite breaking a pole in the semi-finals, which forced him to ski with one pole. Klebl accomplished the feat and punched his ticket into the final by edging out the French skier in a photo finish.
Klebl managed to stay out of trouble in the final where two Russian skiers got tangled up at the beginning of the .9-kilometre loop to win the silver medal.
Norway’s Trygve Steinar Larsen won the gold medal, while Russia’s Irek Zaripov won the battle for the bronze.
Saskatoon’s Colette Bourgonje was the only other Canadian to suit up on Friday. Bourgonje, who won the gold in the women’s sit-ski race on Wednesday, qualified for the heats, but her quest for the podium came to an end when she finished fourth in her semi-final.
Canada has teamed up to win five gold medals and one silver at the 2011 IPC World Championships.