By Xavier McKeever
National Cross Country Ski Team Member
When I was three years old, I raced for one reason and one reason only. Candy.
My earliest memory on skis was participating in a one-kilometer cross-country ski race that was about getting from point A to point B as fast as you can. It’s called the ‘cookie race,’ but instead of a cookie at the finish line, you get a large bag of candy. That’s how my racing career began.
Like all the other parents at that age, mine were also at the finish line encouraging me, as I tried to push the pacesetter (the person who sets the pace for the race) to go faster and faster. But that’s probably the only thing that my parents had in common with the other ski parents.
You see, my parents? They’re kind of a big deal, at least in Canada they are. So is my Uncle.
My Mother Milaine Theriault was a member of the Canadian National cross-country team for 12 years. She competed in three Olympic Games and is a 4-time Canadian champion.
My father Robin McKeever is also an Olympic cross-country skier who competed in the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano. He went on to be the sited guider for my Uncle, Brian McKeever. Together my Dad and Uncle Brian competed in the 2002, 2006 and 2010 Paralympics where they won seven Gold, two Silver and one Bronze in cross country skiing and biathlon. That is a lot of hardware! My Dad became the Canadian Team Para-Nordic Head Coach post the 2010 Vancouver Paralympics and Brian went on to win six more Gold medals at the 2014 and 2018 Paralympics!
And me? At fifteen years old, I am proud to be a member of Canada’s Cross-Country Ski Team that competed at the 2019 World Junior Championships in Lahti, Finland
I was around seven years old when I realized that my life was different from other kids. As an only child, I travelled around the world with my parents, watching them train, practice and compete. A little fun fact I love to share with people is that I have had more than half of my birthdays in New Zealand, one of my favourite places to visit. That, and of course Norway, because the ski culture is so big. It’s like what hockey is to Canadians.
My life has always been different from other kids my age, and so have my goals. Back when I was younger, most of my buddies spent their time hanging out together. Don’t get me wrong, I love hanging out with my friends, it’s good. But I decided at age five that I wanted to go to the Olympics and get a couple of podiums. Not super ambitious at that age, but I knew cross-country skiing and racing would be a big part of my life. As I got older it’s become:
- Win an Olympic gold medal
- Win a Crystal Globe
- Dominate the world of cross-country skiing
Okay, maybe not the last one, but I do want to be the best in the world in cross-country skiing.
This season was my best yet. I am won five out of six races at Nationals and qualified for World Juniors. If you had asked me last year if I would have gone to the Nordic Junior World Ski Championships, I would have laughed at you. It was such a surprise, it was crazy. I was the youngest out there and while I didn’t win anything, it was a great experience. Now I know what to expect and I have four more years to accomplish something at that race.
I believe that if I keep working hard and keep improving, anything is possible, even standing on top of the podium and winning gold for Canada at the Olympics. And that’s where MY story, gets a little fuzzy. Because if I am on track to be the best, I know the stories will all draw comparisons between my parents and myself.
So let me go on the record here about my parents and what others may think.
People may THINK they planned my career as a cross-country skier from the day I was born.
People may THINK they had been grooming me since I was a kid.
People may THINK that I had no choice in sport and had to choose cross-country.
But if people THINK that, it would be the farthest thing from the truth.
The fact is they knew how hard it was to be an athlete competing at a high level in the sport, so if anything they tried to get me to do something else, like another sport. At a young age, they put me in a variety of different sports to see if I did like something better, and ultimately I was the one who said to them, I just wanted to cross-country ski.
As I have grown and continued to make my own choices, they have accepted my passion for the sport, as my own and are the last ones to make me feel like I have to get a podium finish every time. Where they DO put pressure on me is to keep my grades up. In fact I have to maintain an 80% average in every grade, otherwise, I would have to stop skiing until I got my grades back up. Luckily I have an 80% average and I’ve never dipped below. It does help push me at school to keep doing well.
So while my days may be different than other teenagers, I might not have as many weekends off as other high school students and I have less time to spend with my friends than other kids, I wouldn’t trade my life in competitive cross-country skiing for anything.
Oh and keep an eye out for me in the next few years. I’ll be the one with the famous last name, taking the gifts I’ve received from my parents and blazing my own trail. I’ll be making a name for myself.
See you on the trials,