Athlete Profile: Brian McKeever

Brian McKeever is one of Canada’s most-accomplished Paralympic athletes having racked up 13 medals in three trips to the Paralympic Winter Games, including ten gold. Teaming up with former guide, and brother Robin, Brian has won nearly everything on the table in Para-Nordic skiing. Brian has continued his tradition of winning with new guide and childhood friend, Erik Carleton. In 2010, Brian became the first athlete in the world to be named to the Olympic and Paralympic Teams. While Brian did not start in the Olympic races in Whistler, he went on to win three gold medals at the Paralympics. Brian has worked his way through the national program competing at all levels in both able-bodied and Para-Nordic skiing. He competed in his first World Championships in 2007 where he led the Canadians with a 21st-place finish in Sapporo, Japan. Prior to being diagnosed with Stargaard’s disease in 1998, Brian also represented Canada at the Junior World Championships in Pontresina, Switzerland.

It wasn’t only his father’s influence that shaped Brian’s life, but a rare genetic disease as well. Brian’s father and aunt suffered from Stargaard’s disease (macular degeneration or loss of central vision – fine detail and colour). Doctor’s had always told Brian that he may get the disease, but both his father and his aunt contracted the disease in elementary school. Brian felt that he may have beat the odds as he grew into his teens.

In 1998, Brian competed in the 1998 World Junior Championships, but by 1999 he was having trouble reading billboards from the car window. He had his eyes checked and was diagnosed with Stargaard’s disease. “The easiest way I can describe the feeling is that if you stared at the sun for a long time and turn away, you get these fuzzy spots. Well for me, the fuzzy spots don’t go away. It’s the loss of central vision. Sort of like a fuzzy blob in the middle of my vision. I always knew it was a possibility,” continues Brian. “But it wasn’t much of a transition because soon after I was diagnosed, the disabled team came knocking.”

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