Paralympic legend Brian McKeever is planning to race two more seasons before ending his glittering Nordic skiing career at Beijing 2022.
The blind cross-country skier is Canada’s most decorated winter Paralympian with 17 medals, including 13 golds.
But after returning to training at the Canmore Nordic Centre, the 41-year-old revealed his plans to call it a day in an interview with Rocky Mountain Outlook.
McKeever, who has been competing for more than two decades, has confirmed Beijing 2022 will be his sixth and final Paralympic Games.
"I think it will be declaring it as an end point," said McKeever, Canada's flagbearer at the Opening Ceremony of Pyeongchang 2018.
"As much as I enjoy this, I have to face facts that I’m pretty old with my beard getting longer and greyer every day – it’s time.
"[Beijing 2022] gives me mentally as well a place to close it out and then gives me some time to think about what else to do.
"Of course that’s difficult and at least it’s making me aware that there’s a need to transition and shift focus and think about it."
McKeever suffers from Stargardt’s disease, which affects central vision, and is guided by Russell Kennedy and Graham Nishikawa.
After making his Paralympic debut at Salt Lake City 2002, McKeever has earned legendary status in Canada, winning three golds and a bronze at Pyeongchang 2018.
McKeever revealed the physical nature of the sport was taking its toll on his body, revealing he struggled to walk after punishing races.
"When you are in your 40s and you’re still trying to compete with young guys and be a professional, there is no such thing as being refreshed," said McKeever.
"I think the biggest thing is just the body breaking down and doesn’t recover, so I’m in constant pain every day and as much as I can put that aside, it’s a job, you start to realise.
"It’s tough waking up every morning and barely being able to walk and going to bed at night and having pain all night.
"It wakes me up in the middle of the night and that stuff starts to weigh on you pretty heavily."
McKeever was named in Canada’s 2020-2021 national team earlier this year along with Mark Arendz, Collin Cameron, Natalie Wilkie, Emily Young and Brittany Hudak, all of whom are Paralympic medallists.
Canada’s Para-alpine skiers were in Europe for three weeks of training recently but are now back home isolating and hoping they can get on Canadian mountains soon.
Arendz, winner of a Canadian record six medals at the Pyeongchang 2018, was pleased to be back on the snow for the first time in six months as Canada’s Nordic skiers tested the trails at the Canmore Nordic Centre.
"Strange enough this year feels actually quite natural to be on it quickly," he said.
"The first 10 minutes are a little weird but then you get your legs again and then it just felt a lot better."