Rising Alberta cross-country skiing star continuing family legacy

Xavier McKeever cruises to a first place finish in the junior men’s 15-kilometre skate cross-country ski race in Sweden on November 21. Nordiq Canada

The son of two Olympic cross-country skiiers and the nephew of Canada’s most decorated winter Paralympian is continuing the family legacy.

In the beginning, Robin McKeever did everything he could to prevent his son Xavier McKeever from following in his ski tracks.

“I did everything possible to put Xav in any sport, but cross-country skiing,” McKeever admitted. “I wanted him to be able to choose this sport, if it was his choice, versus being forced into it because it was just the life that he was born into.”

Read more: Beginner cross-country ski trails near Calgary

Xavier did quite well in every sport he tried as summers were filled with soccer and mountain biking, while winters were jam packed with alpine skiing, hockey and speedskating.

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But there was just no separating him from his cross-country planks.

“It was hectic,” the 18-year-old recalled. “I just loved being on my skis and the feeling of just gliding around on snow.

“When I was younger it was mostly about having fun and being outside, and now it’s focused because it’s my life and my job in a way.”

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McKeever is a name synonymous with the sport in his hometown of Canmore.

His parents are Olympic cross-country skiers Robin McKeever and Milaine Thériault and his uncle is Paralympian Brian McKeever.

“He’s got some of the relaxed personality that I had, and his mom’s drive,” Robin said. “She was an organized and dedicated athlete in whatever she does. He has a bit of that so that balance, so he will train extremely hard, and still be relaxed enough around races that he doesn’t let the pressure get to him.”

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As a kid, Xavier didn’t quite grasp his family’s Nordic achievements until he watched Robin and Brian capture three gold medals at the Vancouver 2010 games.

Now Xavier is trying to carve his own legacy on the slopes.

“Personally, I feel no pressure from that legacy. I’m just here to create my own path and live my own career, so I just focus on that mostly.

“It’s always nice to have parents who have so much experience in the sport because they can give me a wealth of knowledge on different things.”

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Xavier is now one of North America’s most promising young stars.

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Along with fellow Albertan Tom Stephen, British Columbia’s Remi Drolet and Quebec’s Olivier Léveillé , he helped Canada win its first-ever relay medal — a silver, no less — at the World Junior Championship in 2020.

“When it happened, it didn’t even feel real,” Xavier recalled. “I was like, ‘Someone pinch me right now, this is insane.’ But I think the most important part about that moment is it showed that we’re able to compete at the highest level in cross.”


Then, in a full-circle moment, Xavier captured a hat trick of golds of his own at the Gaellivare Ski Festival in Sweden over the weekend.

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His uncle was on hand to help him prepare for each of his races.

“This is a generation that is faster than any of us ever were at that age,” Brian McKeever, who is also preparing for his final Paralympic games, said.

“I will never be as fast as these juniors ever again — and that’s cool! That’s the most exciting thing, these kids are all faster than me and they have an entire career and life ahead of them.”

Read more: Canadian Paralympic team returns home with record medal haul

Because he is still a junior, Xavier doesn’t plan on being part of Canada’s Beijing Olympic team — but he will compete in the Olympic trials in Canmore later this winter.

McKeever has set his sights on the 2026 games and ultimately, an Olympic medal of his own.

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