Brian McKeever and Bjorn Taylor to Share Leadership Reigns of Canada’s Para-Nordic Program
CANMORE, Alta.—Canada’s most accomplished Winter Paralympian, Brian McKeever, along with longtime cross-country skiing coach, Bjorn Taylor, will share responsibilities for guiding Canada’s Para-Nordic Ski Team program on the trails to 2026 and beyond.
The 43-year-old McKeever officially closed the book on his illustrious cross-country skiing journey that saw him amass a record-setting 20 Paralympic medals, and will now write the first chapter of his new career as Para-Nordic National Ski Team Coach.
Bjorn Taylor, who is no stranger to Canada’s Para-Nordic program having served a variety of roles supporting Para-Nordic coaches in the delivery of world-class, medal-winning high-performance teams over the last 20 years that has included trips to the last five Paralympic Games, was named Nordiq Canada’s new Athlete and Coach Development Manager for the Para stream.
The duo will work together to lead Canada’s highly decorated Para-Nordic skiers into a new era after Nordiq Canada announced this spring that Brian McKeever’s brother and longtime head coach of the Paralympic program, Robin McKeever, took on head coaching responsibilities for the National Ski Team’s Olympic stream.
“It has been an absolutely incredible run over the last decade for our program with a world-class team of athletes, coaches, and staff all working together to continuously deliver results on the ultimate stage,” said Kate Boyd, Nordiq Canada’s high-performance director for the Para program.
“I firmly believe continuity is critical to success. Brian and Bjorn are two of the most trusted and respected individuals in the Para-Nordic sport community who know what it takes to win. They bring tremendous experience and insight, and I know they will form a dynamic and supportive team determined to deliver the resources our athletes need and deserve.”
At age 19, Brian McKeever was diagnosed with Stargardt disease (a macular degeneration or loss of central vision – fine detail and colour). His father and aunt both developed the disease during their elementary school years. Shortly after his diagnosis, he was introduced to Para-Nordic skiing.
McKeever went on to represent Canada at six Paralympic Winter Games over the next two decades where he won 16 gold, 2 silver and 2 bronze medals. In 2010, he made history as the first athlete named to both the Olympic and Paralympic teams. Canada’s Opening Ceremony flag bearer at the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games also racked up an unprecedented 20 World Championship titles in his illustrious career that came to an end this spring at Beijing 2022.
“I’m extremely excited, albeit nervous, to take on this new role, but I am comforted knowing the amazing and experienced people that surround our athletes and coaches in Canada who I know I can lean on to support my development in this new world no different than when I was an athlete,” said McKeever. “The last eight years I have enjoyed having a front row seat to witness the development of my teammates into elite athletes, and I look forward to working with our team of coaches to continue to share what I have learned and experienced to help all of these athletes achieve their own performance goals and dreams while developing my skills now as a coach.”
McKeever will be supported in his transition into the coaching ranks while working under the mentorship of Bjorn Taylor who officially begins the role of Nordiq Canada’s new Athlete and Coach Development Manager this week.
“I have been working with Brian for almost two decades now and have always had the utmost respect and admiration for him as an athlete and as a person. His accomplishments are legendary. He is always striving to push the limits of his abilities and performances. He has developed into a leader and mentor for his teammates over the years so making this progression into coaching is a natural and organic transition. I am really looking forward to working with him and all of the staff to help Canada’s athletes enjoy the journey towards achieving their goals,” said Taylor, who has worked under the guidance of three of the world’s best Para-Nordic coaches in Canada: Kaspar Wirz; Robin McKeever and John Jaques.
Taylor has gained extensive wisdom working in Para-Nordic skiing throughout his career. He is a Senior Classifier for the International Paralympic Committee and has been a key piece in Nordiq Canada’s biathlon strategy over the last three major Games and World Championships.
Taylor and McKeever will now be responsible for leading all aspects of program delivery for the Para-Nordiq National Ski Team: from coordinating the daily training environment to managing training camps and competing on the international stage where they will ensure optimal mentoring for the nation’s best athletes.
“I am super stoked to take on an expanded role with the Para-Nordic Team. We have an amazing group of athletes and staff who have proven they can perform at the highest level so I am honoured to have the opportunity to help this team continue to excel on the world stage,” added Taylor.
One of McKeever’s former guides, Graham Nishikawa, will also make the full transition from athlete to coach. With competition travel curtailed due to COVID-19 two years ago, Nishikawa took his first strides into a career in coaching, working with the nation’s development athletes while continuing his guiding duties alongside Russell Kennedy. Nishikawa will now step into and focus on coaching Para-Nordic’s NextGen program.
The Para-Nordic program continues to be anchored by a tight-knit group of sport professionals, support staff, and therapists in addition to three of the best technicians in the field, with Ian Daffern (since 2002 Paralympic Winter Games) Laurent Roux and Bruce Johnson (since 2010 Paralympic Winter Games), providing athletes with the best skis, wax, and equipment.
Nordiq Canada will now focus its attention on recruiting a biathlon coach for the Para-Nordic program.