Canada finishes with golden day
KRASNAYA POLAYNA, Russia — Brian McKeever and Chris Klebl made sure Canada finished the Sochi Paralympic Winter Games on a high note.
The cross-country skiers both won their races on Sunday, with McKeever taking the men’s visually impaired 10-kilometre event before Klebl surprised the field with a stunning victory in the men’s 10-kilometre sitting category.
McKeever picked up his third gold medal — and the 10th of his career — at these Games, while Klebl won his first-ever Paralympic medal.
The victories pushed Canada’s overall medal count to 16, three shy of the 19 won at the Vancouver Games four years ago.
More importantly, they moved Canada to third in the gold-medal standings, a stated goal that team officials set prior to the Paralympics.
Russia topped the standings with an eye-popping 80 medals — including 30 gold — while Ukraine was second with 25 total medals.
Germany was second behind Russia in the gold-medal count with nine.
McKeever finished Sunday’s race in a time of 23 minutes 18.1 seconds, just 8.1 seconds ahead of Russia’s Stanislav Chokhlaev.
He employed the same strategy with his guides that helped him win the 20-kilometre gold medal last week.
With windy conditions starting to wear on guide Erik Carleton, Graham Nishikawa entered the race with about three kilometres to go to help seal the 10th gold medal of McKeever’s storied career.
“It was all on the guides today.
“They did such a great job with all the headwind,” said McKeever.
“There was so much wind out there today that just to be tucked in, I saved a lot of energy. By the time we got to the last lap there was still a little bit of gas left, just enough to get by.”
The 42-year-old Klebl won in a time of 30 minutes 52.0 seconds.
Ukraine’s Maksym Yarovyi finished second at 31:06.5 and Russia’s Grigory Murygin skied to the bronze at 31:18.2.
“It feels pretty good for sure,” said Klebl.
“I have exceptional skis for wet, sloppy conditions and today we got exactly those conditions. It just feels good. We prepare for this over and over and over again to try and get things to line up, and today it did.”
A three-time Paralympian, Klebl moved to Canmore, to join the Canadian team from the United States following the Vancouver 2010 Games.
Also Sunday, para-alpine sit-skier Josh Dueck was chosen as Canada’s flag-bearer for the closing ceremony.
The native of Kimberley, B.C., won gold in the super combined and silver in the downhill in Sochi.