I am a 15-year-old athlete from Canmore, Alta., and a member of the national junior cross-country ski team.
I was born into a privileged position in the sport. My mom, Milaine Theriault, and dad, Robin McKeever, have both skied in the Olympic Games. My dad then went on to guide his younger brother, my uncle, Brian, in the Paralympic Games, where they won 10 medals including seven gold. Today, my dad is still involved in the sport, and he is a coach for the national Paralympic team.
So, what is it like to live in such a ski-centric family? I have experienced many cool things while participating in this sport. My family’s influence and passing down of knowledge has greatly helped my young career thus far. I hope to take this sport as far as I can.
I began travelling around Canada and the world with my parents before I can remember. Being with them and around the ski team has always been my normal. They brought me along to cool places outside the country. I know I was in Germany, Italy, and Switzerland when I was younger. And while they skied, a nanny took care of me. I grew up around the national team and the sport of cross-country skiing. Many people who were on the team remember me when I was still a baby and have known me since I was little.
As I was growing a little older, my mom retired from the sport and my dad moved into his coaching role, which in a way opened up even more opportunities for me. My mom and dad travelled to New Zealand for training camps many times with the national team. I remember going there when I was a little kid back in 2007, 2008, and 2009. But the New Zealand trips began to really matter for me when my dad was coaching the Para national team. I got to go and train there in the Canadian summers from 2014 through and including last summer. New Zealand’s season is flipped, which means I can be on snow and skiing in August. The typical New Zealand camp last 21 days, beginning at the end of July. So, what do I work on in the summers in New Zealand? Technique. Lots of technique, under the coaching of both my dad and my uncle. It’s a great way to make adjustments and get some quality training in.
Developing in the sport
With each passing year, I have gotten more involved and interested in cross-country skiing. Keeping my attention year round has allowed me to develop more as an athlete. In the winter on weekends, I watch almost every single World Cup and major championship race with my family. I should say, I watch those races after I have done my morning training. Carefully watching the pros gives me a lot to think about, in the areas of race strategy and technique.
Technique is one of the most crucial things in cross-country skiing. Because we race long distances at maximum output, we need to be efficient. Skiers decrease the amount of energy used by improving technique. When I’m skiing with my dad and uncle, the two of them will almost always be talking about technique, which is very beneficial to me. To be honest, the constant reminders of how to improve technique can get annoying, but I know in my mind that it will make me a better skier.
Both my parents have shared more and more tips from their vast experience as I have progressed and gotten older. Their advice covers everything from specific technique to guidelines for recovering properly. It is a trove of experience and information that has been passed down to me. It has helped me greatly, and led me to become a better athlete.
Ever since I was able to form an ambition, I knew I wanted to become a professional skier. I always thought it was such a neat sport. You have to work extremely hard to become good at cross-country skiing. In my opinion, it's the hardest sport in the world, because you have to be equally tough and strong mentally and physically.
My goal in life is to take cross-country skiing as far as I can. At some point in my career, I want to win an Olympic medal. I think with lots of hard work and with the benefit of family experience that is being passed to me, I can reach that peak. I am still young, but I already have a reputation for being a hard worker. I think with hard work and support from parents, coaches, teammates, and family, I can get there.
(Top and middle large photos by Xavier McKeever/Instagram)
The Xavier McKeever edition
Q: The best book you've ever read?
A: A book about how Zlatan Ibrahimovic became one of the best soccer players in the world.
Q: Must-listen Podcast?
A: Never listened to one.
Q: Best advice you ever received?
A: Always follow your dreams and give your all.
Q: If your life was a movie, what would it be called?
A: The tale about a young teenager trying to realize his big dreams.
Q: What word or phrase do you over use?
A: “That’s so sick.”
Q: What is a skill you wish you had?
A: The ability to not procrastinate with homework on ski trips.
Q: What's something no one would guess about you?
A: I’ve had more than half my birthdays in New Zealand.
Q: What scares you?
Q: If you could have the ultimate influential dinner party, who are the six people you'd invite?
A: Both my parents, Alex Harvey, Pele, Marit Bjorgen, and Petter Northug.
Q: What makes you cry, every time?
A: Watching very sad movies.
Q: What's the next goal you want to accomplish?
A: Keep on improving my technique and developing as an athlete to one day reach my big life goals.