Road To The Olympic Games

'I'm really sorry': Van Koeverden

Dumbfounded Adam van Koeverden was at a loss for words following his eighth-place finish in the K-1 1000 race Friday in Beijing.

Canadian kayaker apologizes for dismal showing in K-1 1000

After climbing out of his kayak, Adam van Koeverden stopped to talk to a reporter, who asked what had gone wrong.

"I don’t know. I just didn’t have it. It’s a hell of a time not to have it," the dejected athlete said following his race Friday in Beijing. "That’s the worst 1,000 [metres] I have put together in years. I was a spectator."  

Then he looked at the television camera recording the interview and addressed viewers. "I’m sorry," he said, beads of sweat dripping from his face. "I’m really sorry."

Van Koeverden had not just fallen short of the medal podium in the K-1 1000, he had fallen apart.

Canada’s most celebrated athlete at the Beijing Olympics, and the Canadian flag-bearer at the opening ceremony, was considered a lock for a medal in this race.

He won a bronze in the 1,000 at the 2004 Athens Games and grew stronger in subsequent years. He placed second at the 2005 and 2007 world championships, and collected two gold medals and one bronze in three World Cup races this season.

Last month, Sports Illustrated predicted he would win the silver medal in Beijing. 

But on the sparkling water at Shunyi Olympic Rowing-Canoeing Park on Friday, the inconceivable happened.

Fades after strong start

Van Koeverden had a strong start and stayed within striking distance of leader Tim Brabants of Great Britain well past the midway mark.

But Brabants started to pull away from the Canadian and, in the last 250 metres of the race, so did the rest of the field.

Van Koeverden’s situation grew bleaker with each passing lane marker until he finished more than five seconds back of gold-medal winner Brabants, in eighth place, crossing the finish line as little more than an afterthought. 

He crumpled under the weight of the disappointment, clasping his head in his hands.

Had he made an error? Had the pressure been too great?

Van Koeverden had no explanation.

"I have based a whole career on surprising myself and the people around me," he said, "and I think, in a way, I have done it again."

Specialty is 500

The athlete's fans point out that the 1,000 is not his strong suit. He specializes in the 500 and has dominated that distance for years. He is the defending Olympic and world champion, and won all three races on the World Cup circuit this season.

But a troubling question hangs in the dodgy Beijing air and, perhaps, in van Koeverden’s mind: Will he be able to bounce back from this disappointment in time for the sprint on Saturday?

"Well, I’ve only got 24 hours to regroup. I'm really just putting this race behind me and coming back to have a good one tomorrow. That’ll be tough. But the Olympics are supposed to be difficult."

Sports Illustrated predicted he would win the gold in the 500, ahead of Brabants.