Olympic RelayOlympic Relay: Adam van Koeverden, Kayak

Posted: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 | 01:41 PM

Categories: Olympic Relay, Olympics2012

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Canadian athletes are a fascinating breed of focused men and women who know what they want to achieve. We see them as they compete, and then they disappear from our view.

Here's a place where you have a chance to meet them in a way that illustrates their personalities. Their likes, their dislikes and what makes them tick. We call this the Olympic Relay and here's how it works.

A few months ago we had the idea of sending five questions to a selected group of Olympic athletes. We started with Olympic kayaker and medal hopeful Adam van Koeverden and asked for his feedback. He responded by saying it's a good idea, but it could be better? He suggested that we get athletes to ask questions of other athletes. Something like chain mail. And that is what we have tried to do.

For the past few months they have been asking questions of some of their fellow athletes who have generously taken the time to respond. Click on the images above and you'll discover the questions, and the answers. Enjoy!

Canada's Adam van Koeverden competes in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.  (Manan Vatsyayana AFP/Getty Images) Canada's Adam van Koeverden competes in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. (Manan Vatsyayana AFP/Getty Images)

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We sent Adam a questionnaire and asked what he thought. Our idea was to ask questions that the athletes could have fun with.

He liked the idea, but thought it would be better if the athletes asked each other questions. We said YES!
Adam van Koeverden
Hometown:  Oakville, Ont.
Sport:  Kayak

We sent Adam a questionnaire and asked what he thought. Our idea was to ask questions that the athletes could have fun with.

He liked the idea, but thought it would be better if the athletes asked each other questions. We said YES!

Adam is another one of Canada's most accomplished athletes. He's been an international success ever since 2003 when he won the world championship in the K-1 1000 metres. 

Since then he has won three Olympic medals: gold and bronze in the 2004 Athens Olympics, and silver in the 2008 Olympics. He was also Canada's flag bearer in Beijing.  And he goes into these Olympics as a strong contender for a medal. 

These questions are from CBCSports.ca  (Oakville)

His Olympic Events:
  • Men's Kayak Single K1 1000m

What is it with you and politics?

Like any good political question, I feel like this one is a little loaded. As if there is certainly SOMETHING about me and politics. I suppose I pay attention, I come from a family that likes a good conversation or debate or straight-up hellfire lamp-throwing argument. I have strong opinions, and I have a mouth which speaks and fingers which type so it follows that my opinions will occasionally be out there. With regards to politics specifically though, I think the question is probably referring to my views, feelings and tweets about Toronto's mayor.

I believe that the city of Toronto is important enough to have it run by people who are not only competent, not just decent, but by people who are downright inspiring, innovative, articulate, charismatic, progressive, compassionate, and likeable. Toronto is a great city, but I think we're getting left behind a little in this mayoral quadrennial.   

What is the best bit of advice you have ever received?

It's a quote, by Kurt Vonnegut from a book he wrote called A Man Without a Country. 
 "I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, 'If this isn't nice, I don't know what is.'"

And so I try to do that. If I ever got a tattoo then that would be it. But I probably will not get a tattoo.

You spend much of your life on the water. Can you describe its personality?

Yes, I can try. I blog about the water sometimes, and I've characterized it as a monster with whom I am having daily battles in the form of training in my kayak. I describe my kayak paddle as a weapon, and the water's surface as the hide of a river beast. The idea lasted a few blog entries, at vankayak.com, and I may go back to that storyline sometime. It was my attempt at something more creative on my blog. Some people said they liked it, and others said they did not like it, which is good I think.

I didn't bother to remind the people who didn't like it that they don't need to visit my blog, to my knowledge it's not required reading for any university courses, and my blog is free so I don't know why I get complaints about it.  

The language was 'strong.' I was making an analogy, I was beating up on the river monster and causing all this pain, suffering and anguish. But in real life there is no river monster [I hope], and I was the one suffering from the training, from all the work. My hands were blistered and my back was sore, and I was just using the monster as a mirror for all that. 

OK you asked about the personality of the water, not my blog... hm.  

Well water doesn't have one, but it's wet and usually cold but sometimes warm, when it's windy it's usually wavy, too. Water is really heavy [a cubic metre weighs 1000kg!], and there is surface tension on the top of it, and that makes it hard to move, and move through, with my paddle. But I guess that's the point. 

Basically, it's a nice place to be most of the time. So I'm glad I've spent like 15,000 hours on the water.

What has been the most surprising moment of your athletic career?

I don't know! I think two things about the K1 500m have been the most surprising. First, winning the 500m in Athens was pretty weird, at first. I was training for the 1000m primarily, because that was the event that my coach and I and everyone thought I had some potential in. We didn't know that I was very good at the 500m until we started racing that week. I was the youngest and least experienced and shortest athlete in that final, I wasn't really an underdog, but I was racing it for the sake of a second event and my coach Scott just told me to go have fun when I left the dock. 

I used to berate the 500m, and call it the 'half-k'. Like, it wasn't even a full race. But I grew to love it! And then they took it away. 

In 2009 the International Canoe Federation decided to replace the 500m with the 200m. That was surprising. They didn't even try to add the 200m to the program without removing events, and if they tell you that they did, then they are lying to you.  They made a lazy, hasty decision, and while I agree that the 200m has a place at the Olympics, I don't think it should have been at the expense of my ol' half-k.

CBCSports.ca: You have had exhilarating moments at Olympic competitions and you have had hugely disappointing performances. What emotion stays with you the longest?

Pride. I am so proud to race for Canada and live in Canada and be Canadian that I am actually starting to cry here while I'm typing these words with my typing fingers. My parents' parents were all so fortunate to be welcomed here with their skinny little Dutch and Hungarian infant babies who grew up to be my parents and uncles and aunts. 

I love Canada so much. It is the best place in the world. I've had some good races and thankfully fewer, but some bad ones. I really appreciate my bad races, though. They juxtapose my good ones and make me appreciate winning more. They also remind me why I need to work so hard. 

It's because I want to win, and Canada likes it when we win because they play O Canada and then we can ALL CRY TOGETHER! Like good Canadians.

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