Brian Mckeever of Canada competes to win his gold medal in the cross country men’s 10km, free, visually impaired event at the 2014 Winter Paralympic, March 16, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. Ten-time gold medallist Brian McKeever will carry Canada’s flag in Friday’s opening ceremonies of the Pyeongchang Paralympics.The 38-year-old visually impaired skier from Canmore, Alta., has owned the top of the medal podium, going undefeated in Paralympic competition since 2006. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Dmitry Lovetsky

Cross-country skier McKeever to be Canada’s flag bearer

The 10-time gold medallist will carry Canada’s flag into the opening ceremonies of the Pyeongchang Olympics

Canadian Paralympic star Brian McKeever grew up without a television.

But days before the 1988 Winter Games opened in Calgary, his parents took their long-broken TV set in to have it repaired, and the cross-country skier’s Olympic love affair began when Canada marched into the stadium for the opening ceremonies.

RELATED: Nearly half of Canada’s Paralympic team has ties to B.C.

“You don’t necessarily understand what the Olympics are at the time, but if it’s important enough for mom and dad to get the TV fixed, it must be pretty big,” said McKeever, who was in Grade 3 then. ”So we watched the whole Games from opening to closing … it’s always a big event, right?”

On Friday, the 10-time gold medallist will carry Canada’s flag into the opening ceremonies of the Pyeongchang Olympics, leading a Canadian team 55-athletes strong.

“I’m sure it will be (emotional),” McKeever said through a big grin. ”Everything about sport is, good and bad. And I think that’s partly why we do this, to experience all the stuff, and so I’m looking forward to seeing what happens out there.”

McKeever, who’s never marched in the opening ceremonies in his four previous Paralympics — his racing schedule has been too demanding — posed for photos after Thursday’s announcement at Canada Paralympic House. He draped the Maple Leaf around his shoulders like Superman’s cape, his buffalo plaid baseball hat pulled on backwards.

“I’m a proud Canadian, and I’ve been fortunate to represent my country on the field of play out there, through a lifetime of sport that’s brought a lot of riches of experience,” he said. ”This is something that you dream about doing, and it’s actually a nervous time. I think I’m more nervous to carry the flag than I am to race.”

The 38-year-old visually impaired skier from Canmore, Alta., has owned the top of the Paralympic medal podium, going undefeated in Games competition since 2006.

He was poised to make history in 2010 in Vancouver as the world’s first athlete to compete in both the winter Olympics and Paralympics in the same year. But Canada’s Olympic cross-country coaches opted to enter four other skiers in the men’s 50-kilometre race and not McKeever. The pain of being the odd man out, he said, stung for a long time.

He did make history as the first Canadian to be named to both a Paralympic and Olympic team in the same year, and a few weeks after the Olympics, he shrugged off his heartbreak by racing to three Paralympic gold medals.

Four years later in Sochi, McKeever got tangled up with a Russian skier near the start of the one-kilometre race, but clambered back to his feet and he and guide Graham Nishikawa caught up to win gold.

The skier admitted his competitive spirit may show itself when he walks into Pyeongchang Stadium on Friday.

“Racer mentality probably means I’ll be catching the teams in front,” he said, with a laugh. ”I think there will probably be people there to keep me in place. Which is good… Blind guy will just wander all over.”

RELATED: Canada to send 55 athletes to Paralympics next month

McKeever competed in cross-country skiing from the age of 13, and raced at the world junior championships in 1998. A year later, at the age of 19, he started to lose his eyesight and was diagnosed with Stargardt’s disease, an inherited condition of macular degeneration that also claimed his father’s vision.

The disease has robbed him of his central vision, but he still has 100 per cent peripheral vision — he likes to tell people he can see the donut but not the Timbit.

McKeever roared to a pair of gold medals in his Paralympic debut in 2002 in Salt Lake City, and would race to eight more titles over the next three Paralympics, plus a pair of silver medals and two bronze.

He’s also racked up 19 world titles, including two in February 2017, over 10 and 20 kilometres.

McKeever’s 10 Paralympic golds match the amount earned by wheelchair racer Chantal Petitclerc and swimmers Michael Edgson and Timothy McIsaac.

Canada’s chef de mission Todd Nicholson, a retired Paralympic hockey player and the flagbearer in 2006 in Turin, presented McKeever with the Maple Leaf.

“In 2006… I can honestly say it’s a moment I will never forget,” Nicholson said. ”I remember going into the opening ceremonies and there were 80,000 people screaming and yelling, and I’m really hoping that (McKeever) will experience that just as much as I have.”

McKeever’s older brother Robin, who competed at the 1998 Nagano Olympics, then raced as Brian’s guide before becoming the para-Nordic head coach, cheered on his younger brother at the announcement.

Also on hand were McKeever’s two guides Nishikawa and Russell Kennedy, who competed for Canada at the Olympics last month, and is new to Paralympic sport.

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

B.C. declares state of emergency as wildfires rage

More than 3,300 firefighters are battling more than 500 fires

Port Hardy Fire Rescue knocks down wildland fire

PHFR members responded to the scene, located the fire, and contained it to the immediate area.

Second annual Port McNeill & District Chamber of Commerce golf tournament

Golf Holes #2 and #6 are Hole-in-One opportunities, each with a cash prize of $25,000!

No taxes paid by Neucel, Doug Bondue Arena in Port Alice closes

“Neucel owes us a million dollars and it’s pretty hard to stay status quo when you’re short a million.”

Dragonboat society requests new location for 80 square foot storage shed in McNeill

“Part of my concern for using lot B is that it could become a parking lot for them…”

Average Canadian family spends 43% of income on taxes: study

Fraser Institute’s consumer report shows taxes accounting for larger chunk of income each year

Thieves steal supplies, tools and juice boxes from B.C. summer camp

‘Take a moment to think about who you stole from,’ says Burns Bog Society’s Mark Robertson

Women-owned businesses generate $68,000 less revenue than men’s: survey

When Dionne Laslo-Baker sought a bank loan to expand her burgeoning organic popsicle and freezies business in 2014, she was “shocked” by the feedback she received from one of the bankers.

Hedley frontman’s alleged sex offences case returns to court

Jacob Hoggard faces three sexual assault-related charges will return to a Toronto courtroom this morning.

Climate change likely to cause more sewage leaks, says environment minister

More than one hundred municipal wastewater systems did not report how much raw sewage overflowed from their pipes in 2017.

Priests molested 1,000 children in Pennsylvania, report says

The “real number” of abused children and abusive priests might be higher since some secret church records were lost and some victims never came forward.

Defiant as Trump rages, Omarosa says she won’t be silenced

Manigault Newman declared she will not be silenced by President Donald Trump, remaining defiant as her public feud with her former boss shifted from a war of words to a possible legal battle.

Death toll hits 39 in Italy bridge collapse; blame begins

The collapse of the Morandi Bridge sent dozens of cars and three trucks plunging as much as 45 metres (150 feet) to the ground Tuesday.

Most Read