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RACING DUO – Graham Nishikawa (left) and Brian McKeev er celebrate their gold medals in the 1-km sprint visually impaired race at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games. Photo submitted by CANADIAN PARALYMIC COMMITTEE

Nishikawa poised for second Paralympic Games

Whitehorse skier Graham Nishikawa is gearing up for his second Paralymic Games as a guide for cross-country skier Brian McKeever.

By Dustin Cook on December 7, 2017

Whitehorse skier Graham Nishikawa is gearing up for his second Paralymic Games as a guide for cross-country skier Brian McKeever.

The duo won two gold medals and a team bronze medal earlier this year at the 2017 World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Finsterau, Germany.

In their first Paralympic Games as a team in Sochi, Russia – shortly after Nishikawa joined McKeever – they won the gold medal in the one-kilometre sprint race.

McKeever also won two other gold medals at the 2014 Games with other guide Erik Carleton.

This year, Nishikawa said he will be the primary guide for McKeever – who has already met the qualification standards for the Games – but it hasn’t been determined yet which of the races he will guide and what races guide Russell Kennedy will race.

“It’s mostly based on health,” Nishikawa said of the guide decisions. “I’m his primary guide this time, so will probably do a couple races barring I’m healthy.”

Even though Nishikawa just joined McKeever before the last Games, they have known each other a lot longer growing up on the national cross-country skiing circuit.

“We go back a long time before that, we were competitors against each other for 10 years, we were really good friends,” Nishikawa said of his teammate. “He used to kind of mentor me when I was really young in high school.”

Looking back at the world championships in February, Nishikawa said they are preparing for the Paralympics the same way as they both had a great week of racing and put in three solid races.

The duo won gold in the 10 and 20-kilometre races as well as a bronze as part of the Canadian relay team, finishing on the podium for the first time ever.

“It was a great week for us. We were both in really good shape, I felt like I could really go hard,” Nishikawa said.

“That’s what we want to do this year, trying to copy our preparation. We want to make sure we’re healthy and in really good shape and put down three good races.”

In preparation for the Games, Nishikawa said they are competing in as many able-bodied competitions as possible to stay in shape.

They are currently on their way to Vernon, B.C. for a Haywood NorAm race Dec. 9-10.

Nishikawa grew up in the Whitehorse Cross Country Club program under coach Alain Masson.

He moved to Canmore, Alta. in 2002 to pursue racing full time and has been a member of the national team for nine years.

Making the transition from an individual skier to a team format as McKeever’s guide after the 2013 season was a challenge for Nishikawa, but he said their similar training style and familiarity with each other quickly made for a good fit.

“We train the same style, we know each other and definitely have a lot of the pieces,” he said. “It’s mostly staying healthy coming into these competitions and just delivering a really strong race, that’s all we can do.”

He is joined on the team by younger sister Emily Nishikawa who is currently on the World Cup tour and working towards her second-straight Olympic bid.

“We follow her results and chat with her quite a lot,” Nishikawa said. “We know how she’s doing and we’re hoping she can have a really strong Olympics in February.”

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