Van Koeverden's impact visible

HIMANI EDIRIWEERA -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 1:25 PM ET

It may not be the all-Canadian dream but after kayaker Adam van Koeverden clinched two Olympic medals, and the Lou Marsh Trophy for outstanding athlete, he said he hopes amateur sport is given the recognition it deserves. "It's poignant when a Canadian amateur wins the Lou Marsh in a non-Olympic year, it's cool to think that we can get the recognition," van Koeverden said, adding it would be nice to see more kayaking stories "snagging headlines" during the hockey lockout. "I'm the second kayaker to win it in five years, so obviously canoe-kayak is one of Canada's strongest sports."

Kayaker Caroline Brunet won the award in 1999.

The Lou Marsh Trophy is decided by a panel of sports editors and broadcasters and awarded annually.

This year, van Koeverden beat out NHLforward Martin St. Louis, NBA guard Steve Nash, gymnast Kyle Shewfelt, baseball players Jason Bay and Eric Gagne, and cyclist Lori-Ann Muenzer -- also an Olympic gold medalist.

Graham Barton, high-performance director and head coach of the Canadian Canoe Association, said it's hard to break-through that traditional Canadian dream and to break-free from being so "pro-hockey conscience."

"Sport as a culture needs to be more prevalent in Canada and then there will be more corporate sponsorship," Barton said, adding children need to be exposed to different sports.

Since Van Koeverden brought home a bronze and gold from Athens, he said his life has pretty much remained the same -- at the moment struggling through exams at McMaster University -- with the exception of increased corporate sponsorship, something he encourages more companies to support.

After many offers of sponsorship, van Koeverden recently signed a four-year deal with Roots.

"Life has stayed suprisingly similar since the Olympics, I've been way more busy, making apperances and stuff, but I still train and go to school everyday," he said.

Barton said it's too early to gauge van Koeverden's Olympic performance on canoe sport, but that registration has seen an increase in the past 10 years. With an increase of more than 15 canoe clubs across Canada, there are currently 4,000 competitive members and 25,000 general members involved with paddling-based clubs.

"It's great to have seen our sport win (the Lou Marsh) two times because public awareness really helps," Barton said. "It's a great family sport and some kids will stay involved through their whole lives."

Van Koeverden's impact, he said, is already visible. "It was great when Adam said some kid dressed up as him for Halloween."

Naming amateur athletes like Steve Giles (canoe), Kevin Sullivan (1,500m track), Renn Crichlow (kayak) and Derek Porter (rowing) as his role models, van Koeverden said "heroes" really contributes to a kid's development.

"Hopefully more kids will choose to give kayaking a try, just wander into a canoe club like I did nine years ago and take on a new challenge," he said. Van Koeverden plans to finish his kinesiology degree and intends to keep bringing home golds through the 2012 Olympics.


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