van Koeverden tackles tough weather

ALISON KORN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:43 PM ET

It’s supposed to be flatwater racing, but the first day of the 2010 world canoe kayak championships offered anything but.

The race course in Poznan, Poland — beautifully flat all week for training — was blown to bits Thursday and Canadian ace Adam van Koeverden bore the brunt of it.

Van Koeverden, a three-time Olympic medallist in kayaking, didn’t qualify for the final in his 1,000-metre specialty after being hit by a sideways wave in the last few strokes of his semifinal, losing a qualifying position by less than a second in a three-and-a-half minute race.

“It was one of those days where there were lots of big waves on the course and it wreaked havoc on some of the results,” said Graham Barton, CanoeKayak Canada’s sprint high performance director.

“It’s kind of like you’re surfing, really. There were a few races where athletes were passing athletes in the last 50 metres, and suddenly they would get on the wrong side of the wave and almost come to a complete stop, and the other would zoom past them. It was like a see-saw battle in a few cases.”

Van Koeverden came in fourth in his semi behind paddlers from Italy, Britain and Serbia. Adding salt to the wound is the fact that the top-four times in van Koeverden’s semi were faster than the winners in the other three semis. Yet only the top two from each semi advanced. Terrible luck.

“It was a tough day for him and he is extremely disappointed,” Barton said. “We know he is a podium athlete, but the weather cost him today as well as other favourites. It’s an outdoor sport and this stuff happens.”

The topsy-turvy conditions also caused a few C-1 canoes to flip, a four-person kayak to sink and some additional top internationals did not advance.

Canada did have better luck in other events. Burlington’s Mark Oldershaw, racing the C-1 canoe 1,000 metres, won his heat, placed third in his semi and advanced to Saturday’s final.

“My semi came down to a race for third between me and Mathieu Goubel of France, who I have been training with for the last two weeks,” wrote Oldershaw on his blog. “I was well ahead, trying to just finish without sinking or going out of my lane when he made a late charge and almost caught me. Luckily I saw him coming and had enough to hold him off.”

In all, Canada reached three 1,000-metre finals after Thursday’s heats and semis. Andrew Russell of Dartmouth, N.S., and Gabriel Beauchesne-Sevigny of Trois-Rivieres, Que., were second in the C-2 semifinal to advance to Saturday’s final and the men’s C-4 1,000 was not raced after a withdrawal, which puts Canada in that final as well.

“We were very pleased with our performances today,” Barton said. “Andrew and Gabriel appeared in great form and had a great challenge in their semifinal. With a day off tomorrow (Friday) they should be ready to give everything on race day.”

Competition continues Friday with the heats and semis in the 500-metres as well as finals in the Para canoe events in which Canada has a four-member squad, including gold-medal contender Christine Gauthier of Pointe-Claire, Que. These are the first worlds in which canoeing races for athletes with a disability are official events.

After his race, van Koeverden tweeted, quoting the Dalai Lama: “You need self confidence and determination: Feeling depressed and losing hope will never really help to correct any situation.”

He’ll have another chance to conquer the conditions in the 500-metre event on Friday.


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