AVK showing lofty leadership

Adam van Koeverden does things his own way.

It’s a determined philosophy that has helped turn a non-athletic boy into the best flatwater kayaker in Canadian history. More, it helped turn him into a true leader.

“I wasn’t interested in doing what everyone else was doing,” said the three-time Olympic medallist. “I was never a great athlete growing up. I never dreamed about this. When I found kayaking I found something to work on and make my own. I didn’t know anybody else who was doing it.”

Now, facing what will be his third Olympic Games with another four years of training and international success behind him, van Koeverden marches on as a true individual among his Canadian Olympic peers.

“I’m older and wiser,” said the three-time Olympic medallist from Oakville, Ont. “I’m not sure how all my experience will prepare me for my (K-1,000m) race in London. I am who I am now and I’m just focused on getting that person to the line in London as fit and as strong as possible. My goals haven’t changed.”

To accomplish this, van Koeverden typically paddles 10 times a week, puts in about six hours in the gym and supplements it all with swimming and running. Depending on the time of year, he says he will hit between 100 and 200 kilometres of paddling a week.

His outlook, though, remains the same.

“There’s really one way to describe (training): it’s abuse,” says van Koeverden. “You’re putting your body through as much as it can tolerate repeatedly and sustainably so that you come back stronger, fitter and more skilled. I welcome the pain and the discomfort as an indication that I’m going really fast and pushing really hard.”

Results speak volumes for van Koeverden. He has won 22 World Cup gold medals and captured the overall World Cup title every year from 2004 through 2007. In 2007 he went undefeated on the World Cup circuit and earned another five World Cup victories in 2008 during Olympic preparation.

It’s a resume not soon forgotten. For the 30-year-old, though, athletic pride doesn’t necessarily come from results alone. In both his Olympic appearances, the Canadian team marched behind van Koeverden as he carried the flag.

After a double-medal performance in Athens he led our team out of competition at the Closing Ceremonies. Four years later, he led them into competition in Beijing at the Opening Ceremonies.

“It’s the most proud I’ve ever felt to be Canadian,” said van Koeverden about carrying the flag. “It’s the most proud I’ve ever felt to be an Olympian. It’s the most proud I’ve ever felt just to be able to call myself an athlete.”

This kind of leadership has not only proved invaluable for the Canadian Olympic Team, but also for Canadians. van Koeverden’s individual determination and commitment to his craft is an example of true success in this country.

“It’s like paying rent. Every once in a while I get to stand on a podium and hear O’Canada being played,” he said. “That feeling can’t be reproduced in any other way. But in order to live this lifestyle and have the freedom that I’m so very fortunate to have, I have to pay some rent. The duty that I have to pay is hard work every day.”

The Men’s Kayak K1 1,000m heats begin August 6 in London.