March 22, 2011 (Canmore, AB) – Brian McKeever will lean on childhood ski friend, Erik Carleton, to guide him to the top of the podium at the IPC Cross-Country Skiing and Biathlon World Championships in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, March 30 to April 10, Cross Country Canada announced today.
With Robin McKeever, who has guided Brian to 10 Paralympic medals including seven gold and three at the 2010 Games in Vancouver-Whistler, forced to the sidelines with a torn ACL, the legendary brother tandem tapped on the shoulder of the 33-year-old Carleton to carry the torch and lead the visually-impaired Brian in the cross-country skiing events at the 2011 World Championships.
“I was surprised and shocked when the McKeevers first asked me, but this is a great opportunity for me and one that I could never turn down,” said Carleton. “It is an honour to race with Brian. He and Robin have done so much for Para-Nordic sport, and I just hope to do whatever I can tohelp continue to build on what they have already accomplished.”
While Robin will return to guide his brother along the road to the 2014 Games, the elder McKeever was also named coach of Canada’s Para-Nordic Team this fall.
“Erik is a very talented, and dedicated athlete and a great friend who I know will do everything he can to ensure we have the opportunity to hear the Canadian anthem being played at the World Championships,” said Brian McKeever who has never worked with another guide other than his older brother since he began competing in Para-Nordic skiing prior to the 2002 Paralympics. “This is obviously a new beginning, but our goals will not change. We are focused on gold, and I’m excited to be heading to Russia knowing I have a great friend and hard-working athlete guiding me to the podium.”
Carleton and the younger McKeever are longtime friends who were introduced to skiing at the same time when they signed up at the same time for a Jackrabbit ski program in Calgary. The two began racing together at the age of 13, and the friends became roommates when they moved to Canmore after eventually qualifying for the National Development Team.
While McKeever’s accomplishments are well documented having won everything on the table in Para-Nordic sport including earning a spot on Canada’s 2010 Olympic Team, Carleton has had numerous top-10′s as recently as this season while mucking it out on the Haywood NorAm Series throughout hiscareer. A part-time database administrator with a degree in computer science from the University of Calgary, Carleton’s best results as a senior racer came at the 2000 National Championships when he won two bronze medals.
“This is a new experience for me racing internationally so I’m nervous about maintaining my form through the travel and time zone changes, but I am also extremely excited,” said Carleton. “Brian and Robin are connected in a way that I will never be able to replace, but I am confident I can ski a pace that will help Brian perform at his best and reach his goals.”
The newly-formed McKeever-Carleton duo will lead a high-powered Canadian contingent into the showcase event on the 2011 IPC calendar. The Canadian squad will include a group of six athletes who have combined to win medals at the Paralympics, World Championships or World Cups.
Six-time Paralympic medallist, Colette Bourgonje will be the lone athlete entered in the women’s sit-ski category. Saskatoon’s Bourgonje, who has competed in six Paralympics in both winter and summer sport, captured a silver and bronze medal at the Vancouver-Whistler Paralympics. Chris Klebl, of Canmore, Alta., who sits fourth overall in the men’s sitting class, has a World Cup bronze medal to his credit this year.
Rising young star, Mark Arendz of Springton, P.E.I., who has enjoyed a dream season in 2011 where he finished second overall in the IPC Biathlon World Cup standings in the men’s standing division will be gunning for his first World Championship medal. With a goal of following the legendary path set by Brian McKeever, the 21-year-old Paralympian shocked the world by winning three gold medals, two silver and two bronze medals this year.
Jody Barber, of Smithers, B.C., who has five IPC World Cup medals to her credit, rounds out the Canadian squad. Barber, who is a 2010 Paralympian and also an accomplished Para-Triathlete where she won a bronze medal for Canada at the 2010 Triathlon World Championships, will compete in the women’s standing category in cross-country skiing.
The Canadian contingent will depart for the IPC World Championships on March 23 where they will take part in a training camp prior to the weeklong competition, which kicks off March 30, 2011.