Coaches debate starting McKeever in 50-km race
He's the 1st Canadian Paralympic athlete to be chosen for a Canadian Olympic team
Canadian cross-country ski coaches are struggling with whether to give legally blind skier Brian McKeever the chance to race Sunday in the Olympic 50-kilometre classic race.
McKeever, who has limited peripheral vision, is the first Canadian Paralympic athlete who has also been chosen for a Canadian Olympic team.
But, Inge Braten, a Canadian team coach, said he and head coach Dave Wood have to pick the best four skiers, as only four skiers are allowed to start for each nation.
He said that right now based on the Olympic results that would be Devon Kershaw of Sudbury, Ont.; George Grey of Rossland, B.C.; Alex Harvey of St.-Ferreol-les-Neiges, Que.; and Ivan Babikov of Canmore, Alta.
However, Braten said McKeever could be chosen Friday night if coaches believe one of the four skiers is feeling fatigue from a series of tough races.
"We have to look into how they're doing in training today," he said. "All four have had the day off from the relay yesterday and then we have to talk after the training on how they feel.
"But if all four are coming back and saying they're in really good shape and they look forward to doing the 50 kilometre, then I have a problem."
McKeever is a specialist in the long-distance endurance races and qualified by winning a national championship in Canmore, Alta.
Braten said the hard fact is that his other skiers are usually faster than McKeever in the long-distance classic.
"They can fight for a medal all four of them. I don't want to put out one of them from a chance to have a medal because we have to put in Brian. I don't like that situation ... I have to be professional and say 'you are the four best in Canada, you will go.'"
Braten said he and Wood have asked the International Ski Federation if Canada, being a home country, can enter a fifth racer, but he said he is doubtful the federation would allow that.
"I don't think the chances are big for that," he said.
All four of the biggest names on the men's team have had good results during the Games.
Babikov placed fifth in the 30-kilometre pursuit earlier this week, while Harvey came ninth and Grey eighth. Meanwhile, Harvey and Kershaw teamed for a historic fourth place result in the team pursuit earlier this week.
"Devon is maybe the best physical skier of all of them, and George is in really good shape, and also his head is really good today."
McKeever said it's difficult waiting to hear.
"Hopefully I'm one of those guys. I think the snow conditions here are a plus," he said, as he prepared to train on a snowy day in the Callaghan Valley.
"I'll keep my fingers crossed ... I can't change it. All I can do is go out and train and come into it in my best shape."