Paddle to the medalRob Longley thinks kayaker Adam Van Koeverden has a great attitude toward his sport
By ROB LONGLEY, TORONTO SUN
What if Adam Van Koeverden had picked up a lacrosse stick or a putter instead of a paddle? That the 22-year-old Oakville native opted for the latter was the genesis of what has evolved into Canada's latest serious medal threat heading into this summer's Athens Olympics.
A silver medallist at last year's world championships in the K-1 1,000 event, Van Koeverden secured his berth for Athens in last weekend's Canadian team trials in Montreal.
His steady, swift rise in sprint kayak has been impressive, but it never would have happened if as a young teen he hadn't wandered to the Burloak Canoe Club at the bottom of Sixteen Mile Creek.
"I needed something to do, honestly," Van Koeverden said this week of his introduction to kayaking. "I was playing the guitar and I was doing well. But I didn't know if I wanted to spend my life playing guitar.
"I needed something to do and my mom suggested trying some sports. The first one I tried, I pretty much got sucked in. I won my first race, so I really couldn't argue with that --the sport kind of chose me in that regard."
It didn't take long for Van Koeverden to get immersed in the intense workout regimen necessary to be competitive in his sport. By age 18 he was winning a bronze medal at the world junior championships and threatening to make the Canadian team for the Sydney Games.
While the latter didn't happen, the progress continued, leading to the breakthrough showing at the worlds last year.
At last week's trials, Van Koeverden did what he had to do to earn his Olympic colours.
"Going to the Olympics has been my goal for the last four years," said Van Koeverden, who will also compete in the K-1 500 event in Athens. "It feels good to get this part done."
Good, maybe, but far from complete. This is still May, after all, and Van Koeverden knows his best effort has to come "on that day, that minute" in August.
"It takes a whole summer to get ready," he said. "My plan is to peak at the Olympic Games and not before. I could go out right now and do a race, but I'd be three or four seconds slower than what I should be at the end of August.
"I wanted to use (qualifying) as a check for myself to see what kind of shape I was in. I found out I'm not really in good shape and that I still have a lot of work to do."
In his early years, Van Koeverden drew inspiration from former Olympian Larry Cain who, "taught me what going hard is and what intensity is."
Though the two are roommates in Burlington now, Van Koeverden credits his growing success to his coach, Scott Oldershaw and his brother, Dean.
Van Koeverden is one of those refreshing athletes whose world doesn't revolve blindly around his sport. He still plays the guitar to unwind and takes his studies at McMaster University seriously.
The medals Van Koeverden has earned in competition are nice, but you get the impression the doors that competitive kayaking have opened for him mean just as much.
"There so much more to life. I got to go to something like 16 countries by the time I graduated (from high school)," Van Koeverden said. "I think having a well-rounded lifestyle is the key to happiness."
All the better, he would readily acknowledge, if there were to be an Olympic medal in the mix.