Best-Ever Cross-Country Ski Team Nominated for 2010 Olympic Winter Games

In a sport marked by stamina and perseverance, eleven Canadian cross-country skiers will head to Whistler next month to compete against the world. This afternoon in Calgary, Cross Country Canada submitted its nominations for the 2010 Canadian Olympic Team and even before skis hit snow, history will be made.

That’s because the team includes one Brian McKeever, known for his proficiency in Paralympic cross-country skiing (four gold medals). But the native of Canmore, Alberta, who is legally blind with Stargardts’ disease, will become the first winter-sport sport athlete ever to compete in the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. Three years ago, McKeever finished 21st against able-bodied skiers at the World Championships. Now he will bring his 10% vision – all of it peripheral – to the Olympic stage and race the world’s best. He will either take on the challenge of skiing alone or following close behind another Olympian during a race.

McKeever is part of what may be Canada’s strongest-ever Olympic cross-country team. It is led by 2006 Olympic gold and silver medallists, Chandra Crawford and Sara Renner. Both have also captured four World Cup medals in their careers, and Renner has added bronze at the 2005 World Championships. The team rolls from there, fielding another seven skiers who have 15 World Cup medals between them.

On the ladies side, they are joined by Dasha Gaiazova, who literally stormed her way onto the team by winning three of four Canadian Olympic Trials races in December. She was an alternate at Torino 2006. Making their Olympic debuts are Perianne Jones and Madeleine Williams.

The men’s team comprises six skiers and without question holds Canadian chances ever to win the nation’s first men’s Olympic medal. Devon Kershaw is a consistently strong skier with three World Cup medals on his resume. Ivan Babikov skied for his native Russia at Torino 2006 and will finally join Canada in the race for the podium. George Grey, who won bronze in team sprint at Whistler last year, also enters his second Olympic Winter Games. Alex Harvey holds huge promise as a young skier, having won two World Cup medals in his rookie season last year. And Stefan Kuhn fulfills his Olympic dream after taking three years off from high performance skiing.

Here’s hoping these 11 athletes will continue Canada’s upward trajectory in Olympic cross-country skiing. Sound the cowbells!

Women’s Team
Chandra Crawford – Canmore, Alta.
Sara Renner – Canmore, Alta.
Dasha Gaiazova – Banff, Alta.
Perianne Jones – Almonte, Ont.
Madeleine Williams – Edmonton

Men’s Team
Devon Kershaw – Sudbury, Ont.
Ivan Babikov – Canmore, Alta.
George Grey – Rossland, B.C.
Stefan Kuhn – Canmore, Alta
Alex Harvey – St-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que.,
Brian McKeever – Canmore, Alta.