Canada’s Para-Nordic Cross-Country Ski Team got a boost from the Yukon last week.
Whitehorse’s Graham Nishikawa was guide for Paralympic legend Brian McKeever at the Para-Nordic World Championships in Finsterau, Germany, helping him win two gold and a bronze.
“We had a great week of racing for sure. Brian and I both felt better as the week went on. Brian is an incredible athlete who is still at the top of his game,” said Nishikawa in an email to the News. “It’s an honour and a pleasure to be able to be part of his success. Most important for me was to see the rest of the team do so well. Our whole program is definitely maturing.”
McKeever, who lives in Canmore, Alta., was competing in the men’s visually impaired division.
Nishikawa, 33, and McKeever, 37, captured gold in the 20-kilometre classic on Feb. 16. They finished with a time of 57 minutes and 35.40 seconds, almost three minutes ahead of the silver medalist as the only in the division to break the one-hour mark.
“Our performances are showing that things are moving back in the right direction after being sick around Christmas. Graham is in incredible shape right now, and a step above me which is important for us,” said McKeever in a Cross Country Canada press release.
The duo then snatched gold in the 10-kilometre skate race on Feb. 19 with a time of 22:15.1.
“The 10K skate was a challenge with a couple of very strong competitors so being able to pull off that victory was great,” said Nishikawa.
They opened the worlds helping Canada win its first-ever relay bronze at the para worlds on Feb. 15. McKeever and Nishikawa teamed up with Emily Young of Vancouver and Mark Arendz of P.E.I. for the historic win.
McKeever, who began losing his vision in his late teens due to a form of macular degeneration called Stargardt’s disease, is a 13-time Paralympic medalist. He and Nishikawa have been working together since the Sochi Paralympic Games in 2014 where McKeever won three gold.
Nishikawa is a former member of the national able-bodied cross-country ski team and is the brother of Whitehorse Olympian Emily Nishikawa.
“I really enjoy being part of the Paranordic program. Brian has been at this a long time and is a true professional,” said Graham.
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