03/12/2014 06:40 EDT | Updated 05/12/2014 05:59 EDT

Brian McKeever Falls, Gets Up, And Wins Paralympic Gold


Canadian cross-country legend Brian McKeever skied one of the great races in Paralympic history on Wednesday, overcoming an early fall to win gold in the men’s visually impaired 1 km race in Sochi. 

In what has to be the best performance of his Paralympic career, McKeever got tangled up near the start of the race with Russia’s Vladimir Udaltcov and fell to the snow, seemingly putting him out of the running.

But McKeever and guide Graham Nishikawa poured on the speed, overtaking Udaltcov and then fellow Russian Oleg Ponomarev for second, before reeling in Swede Zebastian Modin on the final bend of the course, finishing in a time of 3 minutes, 59.6 seconds.Modin ​took the silver, 1.8 seconds behind McKeever, while Ponomarev ended up winning bronze.

McKeever, of Canmore, Alta.,​ also won gold in the men’s 20 km visually impaired cross-country race on Monday. If he wins gold in his final cross-country event, the 10 km race on Sunday, he’ll become the first Canadian Winter Paralympian to have won 10 gold medals in a career. 

Regardless, his performance in the sprint on Wednesday will be talked about for a long time, a feat made even more remarkable by the fact that the shortest of cross-country disciplines leaves almost no room for error, since there's hardly any time to make up ground.

Aiding McKeever's victory were some of the worst course conditions to date at the Laura Cross-Country Ski and Biathlon Center, slowing down the pace of the races considerably and giving the Canadian more time to catch the other racers. 

The soft snow due to the warm weather has been a major theme through the first half of Paralympic competition, and it was compounded Wednesday by driving snow, making it even harder to navigate the course.

But McKeever looked in fine form on Wednesday, finishing first in the qualification round and in his semifinal heat before the remarkable gold medal victory, putting away any doubt that a virus he caught in the lead-up to the Games would adversely affect him. 

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