Last Friday, close to 5000 spectators were in attendance to welcome athletes from 44 countries during the Opening Ceremonies at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Paralympic Games. As the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) flag was raised, the Games were declared open by Canada's Governor General Michaelle Jean. The Games run from March 12 to 21st.
During the ceremonies, IPC President Sir Philip Craven said, "let us now turn to why we are all here this evening - the athletes. It is you who redefine the possible. You succeed by focusing your minds, driving your bodies and achieving what many would consider the impossible."
On Monday, Brian McKeever of Canada became the first athlete to compete in both the Olympic and Paralymic Games, turning in an outstanding performance in the men's 20-kilometre freestyle visually impaired cross-country skiing event to give the host country its first gold medal of the Games.
I was fortunate enough to have met Brian and his brother Robin while I was at the Olympics last month and learn about the inspiring tale of these two brothers.
Brian began cross-country skiing with his family when he was 3, and started competing by the age of thirteen. In 1998, he reached the international level at the World Junior Championships for able-bodied skiers in Pontresina, Switzerland, where he solidified his standing as one of Canada's best cross-country skiers.
Unfortunately, not soon after, at the age of 19, Brian began losing his vision due to a rare genetic condition, Stargardt's disease. Despite the challenges he faced as a physically-challended athlete, Brian began competing in para-nordic skiing with his brother, Robin, acting as his guide. While Robin was not allowed to ski the course with Brian during the paralympic event on Monday, his brother's victory was no doubt due in no small measure to his help.
Brian's gold medal brought to eight his medal haul at the Paralympic Winter Games, on top of the silver and two gold medals he won at Salt Lake City in 2002, and the two gold, one silver and one bronze he took home from Torino in 2006.
For a video about Brian and more about the Paralympics visit their website.
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