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Brian McKeever wins cross-country Paralympic gold

03/10/2014 06:00 EDT | Updated 05/10/2014 05:59 EDT
Brian McKeever won Canada’s first gold medal of the 2014 Paralympics, taking the title in the men’s 20 km visually impaired cross-country race on Monday.

Led by guides Erik Carleton and Graham Nishikawa​, McKeever, of Canmore, Alta., set a furious pace in the final half of the race and ended up cruising to gold, finishing over one minute ahead of Russia’s Stanislav Chokhlaev in a time of 52 minutes, 37 seconds.

"I'm very happy," he said. "It's a job but it's also a lifestyle and a pleasure, and we're very happy to be here in Sochi, representing Canada, doing our job and doing the best we can."

Chokhlaev finished second behind McKeever in the World Cup rankings this season and crossed the line in 53:43.3, well ahead of bronze medallist ZebastianModin of Sweden, who was nearly four minutes off McKeever’s lead time.

There was some concern that McKeever would be hampered by a virus he caught in the lead-up to Sochi, which forced him to pull out of the men’s 7.5 km visually impaired biathlon on Saturday. McKeever was as low as fourth before he made his move halfway through the race.

"It was very, very hard," he said. "Erik and I have been sick for the last week, so we're just starting to feel better. We had to feel it out today early and make sure we had good energy to keep going. We were down in the splits early and had to make sure we could pick it up little by little through the whole race."

It’s the eighth gold medal of McKeever’s storied career, and 11th overall. 

If McKeever can score victories in two other races at the Paralympics, he’ll become the first Canadian Winter Paralympian with at least 10 gold medals. Chantal Petitclerc, Michael Edgson and Timothy McIsaac have all completed the feat in the Summer Games. 

Minnegulov takes standing 20 km title

Russia’s RushanMinnegulov won gold in the men’s standing 20 km race, adding the host country’s impressive early medal haul in the nordic disciplines at the Paralympics.

Minnegulov finished in a time of 55:57.3, over 30 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Ilkka Tuomisto of Finland. Russian teammate Vladislav Lekomtcev won bronze.

Helene Ripa of Sweden won the women’s standing 15 km cross-country race, finishing in a time of 49:49.2. Iuliia Batenkova of the Ukraine was second, a mere 3.9 seconds behind. Anna Milenina of Russia took bronze. Brittany Hudak of Prince Albert, Sask., was 10th.

In the women’s 15 km visually impaired race, two Russians finished 1-2, adding the host country’s impressive early medal haul in the nordic disciplines at the Paralympics. Elena Remizova won in a time of 49:10.2, while teammate Mikhalina Lysova was second, 1:37.3 back. Yadviha Skorabahataya of Belarus won bronze. Ottawa’s Margarita Gorbounova finished in fourth.

There was more Russian gold in the men’s standing 20 km race, with Rushan Minnegulov taking the title in a time of 55:57.3, over 30 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Ilkka Tuomisto of Finland. Russian teammate Vladislav Lekomtcev won bronze.

(With files from the Paralympic News Service)

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