Visually Impaired Skier Gains Attention at Olympics

Brian McKeever, a cross country skier for Canada, has received a massive amount of attention once the news media realized his condition.  With less than ten percent vision, Brian is almost entirely blind.  He is also the first person to compete in both the Paralympics as well as the Olympics.  Brian’s event is the 50 kilometer cross country event that will take place at Whistler during the final day of the Olympics at that location.

Brian McKeever was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease, a form of macular degeneration, when he was a teenager.  He now describes his vision as a donut without the hole, or “flashbulb eye” with a fuzzy blob in the middle of his field of view.  In order to get to training, Brian often walks or rides his bike, since the closest he ever got to driving a car was earning his learner’s permit before losing his sight.  When racing, Brian relies on the path of leading skiers to make his way through the course.  He initially gained attention after he qualified for the team back in January during trials.  But when it was announced that the team had picked him up for the Olympics, international news outlets were stumbling over each other to get an interview with him.

Perhaps the most interested was a Japanese news reporter who learned that McKeever’s grandparents had been held in Canadian internment camps during World War Two.  Many Japanese people are very aware of the United States’ internment camps, but have no idea that they existed in Canada as well.  In a way, the Japanese are cheering him on as well.

While Brian does not expect to win any medals in the Olympic games, he and many others are proud of his achievements and his drive to succeed despite his disability.  When McKeever competes in the next Paralympics he is expected to do very well, as he has already won seven medals in the Paralympics with his brother Robin, a 1998 Olympian himself, serving as a guide throughout the races.

Brian’s story is inspiring as is his dedication to the sport that he so loves.  Now, he has the opportunity to prove to the world that the athletes who compete in the Paralympics are limited only by their ambition and not their disability.  I have a feeling that no matter what the result of his race is, his cheering section will be one of the largest waiting at the finish line.

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