By Nick Butler

Brian McKeever closes in on a second gold medal on home mountains in Canmore ©Pam Doyle/IPCDecember 11 - Canada's Brian McKeever provided a highlight for the home fans with his second gold medal at the Nordic Skiing World Cup in Canmore as the cross-country programme concluded with a gruelling day of long distance races.

McKeever has already won seven Paralympic gold medals overall from the Salt Lake City 2002, Turin 2006 and Vancouver 2010 and he is setting himself up well for more of the same at Sochi 2014.

The 34-year old finished a comfortable 27 seconds clear of Russia's runner-up Stanislav Choklaev with another Russian in Vladimir Udaltcov placing third. 

It was his second gold of the week for McKeever in the visually impaired classes following a middle distance victory on day one, with both victories achieved without the support of guide Erik Carleton, missing because of illness.

Elsewhere, Norway's Mariann Marthinsen was another to lead the challenge to the Russians as she continued her superb week at the Canmore Nordic Centre, built for the 1988 Calgary Olympics, with a third title in the women's sitting class.

In her final race, the 29-year old finished clear of Italy's Francesca Porcellato and Russia's Marta Zaynullina and graciously gave credit to her wax team for her final win.

"I had really fast skis today, the wax team did a great job - I really did not expect to do so well this week," she admitted.

Plenty of skiiers struggled with fatigue during the long distance races which closed the cross country section of the World Cup ©Pam Doyle/IPCPlenty of skiiers struggled with fatigue during the long distance races which closed the cross country section of the World Cup ©Pam Doyle/IPC

Despite the toughness of both the conditions and the opposition, Russian skiers continued to claim the majority of the medals as they hone their preparations for the home Games in Sochi.

In the women's long distance classic visually impaired race it was yet another clean sweep for the future Paralympic hosts with 27-year-old Elena Remizova and guide Natalia Yakamova winning in 57 mins 58.9sec.

More of the same was achieved by their male counterparts in the sitting events,  with 30-year-old Irek Zaripov triumphing over Roman Petushkov and Aliaksandr Davidovich.

After a second and third placed finish in day one and two, 21-year-old Rushan Minnegulov finally stepped onto the top of the podium in the men's 20km classic standing when he edged out compatriot Vladislav Lekomtcev by the narrowest of five second margins. 

Finnish star Ilkka Tuomisto rounded out the podium to ensure some international presence this time, but there was a final Russian double in the women's classic race when Alena Kaufman won her third title of the week ahead of Natalia Bratiuk.

The cross country events are followed by the biathlon World Cup races which are due to start on Saturday (December 14).

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