By Mark Lamport-Stokes
WHISTLER (Reuters) - Brian McKeever was in tears on Saturday with his Vancouver Winter Olympics dream in tatters after the blind cross country skier was not selected to represent Canada in the men's 50km classical event.
Legally blind since his late teenage years, McKeever had been hoping to achieve a place in the record books by becoming the first athlete to compete in both a Winter Olympics and a Paralympics.
"It's emotional for sure," McKeever, 30, who has only 10 percent peripheral vision told reporters at Whistler Olympic Park after learning compatriots Ivan Babikov, Alex Harvey, George Grey and Devon Kershaw had been selected.
"It's not something I ever hoped to hear and I'm not happy. I'm very, very crushed by the decision but I understand the decision.
"I understand that our boys are racing so fast they've deserved everything they've got. It's the strongest men's team we will ever field and I feel very fortunate to have been a part of it."
McKeever, struggling to keep his emotions in check as his eyes reddened, rejected suggestions that one of his team mates could perhaps have surrendered his own spot for Sunday's race.
"It's not up to the team mates to make these decisions," he said. "It's the administration and we live with whatever decisions are made."
The popular cross-country skier from Canmore, Alberta, who suffers from Stargardt's disease, felt it was unfortunate there had been a widespread perception he was assured of a place for Sunday's race.
"I always tried not to portray it in that way," said McKeever who booked his spot on the Canadian Olympic team by winning an able-bodied 50km race in January.
"I feel it was only fair for the media and the public to know my side and to know that I realized that I am only one member of a large team. In the way that we qualify people in our sport, it's not for specific events, it's for the team."
McKeever plans to switch his focus to next month's Paralympics in Vancouver where he will bid to add to the seven medals he has already won alongside his brother Robin who acts as his guide.
"This is a hard one to swallow now but I hope that we have a reasonable profile at the Paralympics," he said. "It's such a great event and I am really looking forward to being there.
"I think my qualification (for the Vancouver Olympics) in itself was a big victory. It didn't end up the way I wanted but ...," McKeever then trailed off before breaking into tears.
(Editing by Jon Bramley)