Graham Nishikawa named to Sochi Paralympics team

Two Nishikawas will be wearing Canadian red and white in Sochi after all.

Two Nishikawas will be wearing Canadian red and white in Sochi after all.

Whitehorse cross-country skier Graham Nishikawa has been named to Canada’s team for the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, Cross Country Canada announced Tuesday.

Graham, the brother of Emily Nishikawa who is competing at the Sochi Olympics in cross-country skiing, will be a guide for famed Paralympian Brian McKeever of Canmore, Alta.

“It’s a totally new and exciting event and I’m very honoured that they wanted me to come along,” said Nishikawa. “It is very rewarding helping other people out. It’s a nice change taking the focus off myself.”

Graham, who is a member of the national development team, was not selected for Team Canada following the Olympic Trials last month in Canmore. He will be one of three guides on the Paralympic team that includes 11 para-Nordic skiers and biathletes. Graham will be McKeever’s secondary guide after his main guide, Erik Carleton of Canmore.

“Brian and I have been really good friends the past 10 years,” said Nishikawa. “We made a good situation work where I joined their training group and we trained together all summer.

“I knew this was in the cards and they were interested in having me come along as a backup guide for Brian, in case he needed another guide.

“I was very happy to be able to join their team.”

McKeever, who is legally blind, made headlines leading up the Vancouver Olympic Games in 2010, becoming the first athlete named to Canada’s Paralympic and Olympic teams the same year. However, he did not end up racing in the Vancouver Olympics. He did win three gold at the 2010 Paralympics, bringing his Paralympics medal count up to 10, including one in biathlon from Torino in 2006.

Graham has actually never performed guide duties for McKeever in an official race before.

“I’ve trained with him essentially every day of the year, so I’m very familiar with how we ski,” said Nishikawa. “Erik Carleton is his primary guide and I’ll be there in case they need me.

“One of them would be a sprint race and a lot of drafting comes into to play there, leading him for a certain amount of time as hard as I can go, and then he can slingshot around to the finish,” said Nishikawa. “The 20-kilometre is mostly skiing together … working together as a team.”

“I try to stay in front of him throughout the whole race and helping him if there are tricky corners, telling him left or right,” he added.

The Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games will take place March 7-16 following the Olympic Games.

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