Brian McKeever snags Canada’s first Sochi 2014 gold

Brian McKeever, Rushan Minnegulov, Helena Ripa, Elena Remizova all won Paralympic titles in cross-country skiing. 10 Mar 2014
Brian McKeever

Canada's Brian McKeever, guided by Erik Carleton, races in the men's 20km visually impaired cross-country skiing evet on Day 3 of Sochi 2014.

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"That was absolutely the best race I could have laid down thanks to these guys. I'm very proud of that one."

Brian McKeever won Canada’s first gold at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games and his eighth career Paralympic title on Monday (10 March), finishing first in the men’s 20km visually impaired cross-country skiing event.

Guided by Erik Carleton, McKeever overcame a slow start to then dominate the final stages of the race and finish in a time of 52:37.1. Russia’s Stanislav Chokhalev, who led until the 12km mark, took silver in his Paralympic debut (53:43.3) and Sweden’s 19-year-old Zebastian Modin claimed bronze (56:34.9).

"It's all about my own shape and knowing if I'm going to be half decent or a bag of wet towels,” McKeever said. “You don't know that until you start racing and pushing.

"I needed to save my energy for the second part of the race, especially since the Russians started so quickly. They were 15, 20 seconds ahead.

"That was absolutely the best race I could have laid down thanks to these guys. I'm very proud of that one."

Russia’s 21-year-old Rushan Minnegulov (50:55.1) claimed his first-ever Paralympic gold in the men’s 20km standing race to go along with his silver in the event from last year’s IPC Nordic Skiing World Championships.

“I was so excited about the atmosphere,” Minnegulov said. “I want to dedicate the medal to Russia. And a big thank you goes out to my coaches and my family, who supported me."

Finland’s Ikka Tuomisto (51:31.5) picked up his second career Paralympic medal, claiming silver across 20km, while three-time world champion Vladislav Lekomtcev (51:44.6) took bronze.

"My impression before the race was definitively that the Russians are the strongest at this race,” Tumisto said. “But I knew I could be on the podium, if I had a good day."

The host nation’s Kirill Mikhaylov (56:31.6) finished a disappointing seventh after entering the event as the two-time defending Paralympic champion.

In the women’s 15km standing race, Sweden’s Helena Ripa (49:49.2) surpassed Ukrainian favourite Iuliia Batenkova (49:53.1) over the second half of the course to take home the gold.

Batenkova, who now holds six Paralympic silvers in Nordic skiing, is still without a Paralympic gold.

Russia’s three-time Paralympian Anna Milenina (51:27.3) took the bronze, while Belarus’ Larysa Varona (51:46.9) just missed out on the medals.

The host nation finished one-two in the women’s 15km visually impaired, with five-time world champion Elena Remizova (49:10.2), guided by Natalia Yakimova, taking gold and Mikhalina Lysova (50:47.5), guided by Alexey Ivanov, capturing the silver.

Belarus’ Yadviha Skorabahataya (55:46.5) won her eighth cross-country skiing Paralympic medal, taking home the bronze.