Yukoner helped guide Brian McKeever to historic Paralympic gold

'Brian is a world class athlete, he's super fit, so yeah, some days I have a really hard job,' said Graham Nishikawa, who's McKeever's ski guide in Pyeongchang.

'My job is basically to go as hard as I can,' said Graham Nishikawa, McKeever's ski guide in Pyeongchang

Guide Graham Nishikawa (left) and Paralympic skier Brian McKeever on the podium after their gold medal win in the 20-kilometre cross country ski race in Pyeongchang. (Bob Nishikawa)

Graham Nishikawa has a tough role to play — he's got to stay ahead of Canada's most decorated Winter Paralympian, Brian McKeever.

"My job is to basically go as hard as I can," Nishikawa said. "And Brian is a world class athlete, he's super fit, so yeah, some days I have a really hard job."

McKeever is legally blind, and Nishikawa skis with him as his guide. ​On Sunday in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the two skied to a gold medal win for McKeever in the men's 20-kilometre cross-country ski freestyle race. It was the 14th medal of McKeever's career.

"We had to fight pretty hard to get that win," Nishikawa said.

"I was completely spent, and [McKeever's other guide] Russell Kennedy came in for a few kilometres ... so we're finding ways to keep the pace super high for Brian, because Brian is crazy fit and it's really hard for guides to stay in front of him."

Nishikawa comes from a skiing family — his sister Emily Nishikawa just competed at her second Olympic games. And Graham was an elite competitive skier himself before teaming up with McKeever about four years ago.

'Brian is crazy fit and it's really hard for guides to stay in front of him,' Nishikawa said. (Bob Nishikawa)

Nishikawa is awed by McKeever, and what he's accomplished. 

"He's got about eight per cent of normal vision. He's got perfect peripheral vision ... he describes it to me, it's like holding your fist up in front of your eyes, about a centimetre away."

McKeever has a few more races ahead of him this week. On Tuesday night, he was to compete in the sprint race, with Kennedy as his guide.

Nishikawa will guide him again on Friday and Saturday in the 10-kilometre and relay races.

"The snow's melting really fast, so we're hoping it's going to last the rest of the week," Nishikawa said.


With files from Sandi Coleman


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