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Mentally refocused McKeever skis to best results ever in Europe

"I'm a true believer if you focus on the work and hard work good things will come."
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Nordiq Canada national junior team member Xavier McKeever poses for a portrait at the Canmore Nordic Centre on Wednesday (Nov. 24). EVAN BUHLER RMO PHOTO

CANMORE – The learning process is a tough but pivotal process to grow and succeed.

Canmore's Xavier McKeever, Canada’s top cross-country ski prospect, is going through that right now.

Hot off a trio of golden races in Gaellivare, Sweden, between Nov. 20-22, the budding 18-year-old star says a refocused mindset has worked wonders to start off his most important season yet.

“For these first races, I was just going in and looking for some positives and I think we got a lot of positives out of it and it’s really motivating and gives me a lot of confidence, which I think I needed after last year’s disappointment,” said McKeever.

It was his best results ever in Europe at the FIS junior races where he won first place in the skate-ski sprint, 15-kilometre individual (38:03.0), and 15-km skate (33:01.5).

The top-of-the-podium results in Sweden concluded a two-week overseas trip where he raced against the men in Finland a week prior.

Getting on powder and racing early was a big confidence booster for the young man.

“Usually we have to wait until December in Canada to start racing, so for me it was super important to get out there earlier and race against some top-class field,” McKeever said.

“I think going into the races, I didn’t really know what to expect. I think it was just racing in a field with a bunch of juniors that I’ve never really seen anywhere or raced against so I didn’t really know what to expect. I went into those races just thinking I’m going to give ‘er everything and see what happens.”

Xavier McKeever is a name often seen for his rise through teenage years as one of the country's brightest young athletes. It also doesn't hurt he's the son of Olympian parents Robin McKeever and Milaine Thériault and nephew of 17-time Paralympian great, Brian McKeever.

Last season though, the next generation athlete had a stumble in his blossoming ski career.

Following a frustrating 2021 FIS Junior World Ski Championships in Vuokatti, Finland, McKeever decided his focus needed to change in the offseason.

Individually, McKeever's top result was 17th in the 10 kilometre classic at the most prized event of the season. However, the highly-touted prospect finished outside of the top 30 in sprint and 30-km mass start.

“I just did not perform how I wanted to,” he said. “So for this season, I changed my focus a lot throughout the summer to focus more on just putting in hard work and not focusing on anything else I think has really helped me this year to develop as a better athlete and be better at my processes and all the training stuff.”

Like many high-level athletes, McKeever works with a sports psychologist as a way to refresh goals and keep a positive spirit and mentality.

A big thing McKeever thinks has helped a lot has been narrowing in on the process versus the outcome.

"I'm a true believer if you focus on the work and hard work good things will come," he said.  “My sports psychologist is a big believer in different resets if you get too stressed and stuff like that. Focusing on ways you can do better and making a purpose for yourself or making a purpose for the season and all the training and so I think having a purpose like that has helped me focus on the hard work to get to where I want to be at results-wise. Focusing on that purpose and all the steps it takes to get there has been tremendously helpful.”

As anyone could predict, it's highly likely that McKeever will one day wear the Maple Leaf at the Winter Olympic Games.

Just a few months away in February 2022, the Games are on the back of McKeever's mind, but, just like a changed mentality, McKeever's focus this season isn't on Beijing. Instead, the teenager has his sights set on the world juniors.

“World juniors is my focus this year, so Beijing is basically out of the question, but I still want to put on some good performances at trials and see how we can do there,” he said.

A big event on the horizon for McKeever is the Nordic Junior/U23 World Ski Championships and Olympic trials between Jan. 6-11 at the Canmore Nordic Centre.


Jordan Small

About the Author: Jordan Small

Jordan Small joined the Outlook in 2014 and covers the vast world of sports in the Bow Valley. A Barrie, Ont. native, he also wrote for RMO's Mountain Guide section and the MD of Bighorn beat.
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