Sitting out Brian McKeever is a terrible call
WHISTLER, B.C. – Congratulations, sincerely, to Alex Harvey, Ivan Babikov, George Grey and Devon Kershaw, Canada’s men’s cross-country team at these Olympics. They didn’t win any medals, but a couple came close and they have had some outstanding performances in a sport in which Canadian men historically are seldom competitive.
That said, unless they finish 1-2-3-4 in Sunday’s 50-kilometre mass start, whoever made the boneheaded decision to leave Brian McKeever, the legally blind athlete who had a chance to make history as the first Paralympian to compete in the Games, should be fired. Immediately.
|KEVIN MCGRAN/TORONTO STAR|
|Brian McKeever speaks to reporters in the mixed zone at Whistler Olympic Park on Feb. 27, 2010.|
This is an appalling decision that disgraces the entire organization – an organization that exploited this athlete for publicity purposes without cautioning that he might get dumped at the last second. Surely we can hope someone at a higher level gets it and revises the starting list. Or else one of the other four athletes graciously steps aside.
Do the Olympics need to be entirely about numbers? Does sport always need to be strictly about winning and losing? Can the global inspiration provided by this young man, spread by worldwide media interest since he was named to the team, not figure into things?
Does someone named Inge Braten, the coach who said he needed “to be professional’’ and therefore left McKeever off the team, according to official sources, not understand the situation here?
“I have to choose those guys who are best for the 50-km race,’’ he said, which is fine in any other kind of situation. But we’re dealing with a bigger issue he obviously cannot see.
Good luck to the four guys he named – two of whom were complaining of tiredness earlier in the week when they finished well back in the relay race – but they have all raced at these Games.
McKeever, and all he represents, can’t get one shot to make history? Not one of those four guys can step aside and say, “Go ahead, take my spot?’’
That’s not the spirit of the Olympics – or the spirit of sport. Not to me, anyway.