Adam Van Koeverden is one of the most recognizable athletes on the Olympic team. The two-time flag-bearer and face of Roots clothing has already won the full set of Olympic medals but headed to London looking for more, winning a silver in the men’s kayak K-1 1000 metre race today.
Despite all of these achievements, Van Koeverden is still one of the most down-to-earth athletes at the Games. “I’m not a rookie, but I don’t think I qualify as a veteran, yet,” he says. Going into his third Olympic games, the Oakville, Ont. native had a simple strategy: “To just take it all in and paddle my kayak as fast as I can.” Having already won a trio of medals and carried the flag for Canada, Van Koeverden was able to focus on what matters: paddling fast.
“Overall I am happy with my race. I tried to get as much air in my lungs and keep it going,” says Van Koeverden after his silver medal win. “Everybody is out there trying to win the race and I feel like my race plan went well. I was looking for a good finish. I can find the silver lining in silver.” It’s a simple strategy for a guy who likes to live simply. A true Canadian, Van Koeverden has taken a back-to-basics training approach in Algonquin Park, where he owns a cabin. He’s not afraid to share his love of the great outdoors, often speaking about environmental concerns and his love for the art from the Group of Seven. It’s easy to imagine Van Koeverden paddling through the mist in Algonquin, like a real-life version of an idyllic Tom Thomson painting. It doesn’t get much more Canadian than that.
As with the environment, Van Koeverden is also not afraid to speak on behalf of Canadian athletes. He works for the Canadian Olympic Committee’s Athletes Commission, representing the concerns of athletes from sprinting to sailing. “I have so much in common with the other athletes, even though we are in completely different sports.” When he isn’t training, he watches coverage of the Games like any ordinary Canadian sitting at home. “I’m as much an Olympic fan as I am an Olympic athlete.”
Some might call this a distraction from the task at hand, but he calls it inspiration. “Its all cross-inspirational. Reciprocal-inspiration I call it,” he says. His own inspiration to be an Olympian came from a watching fellow Canadian Simon Whitfield win gold. It was the 2000 Sydney Games and Van Koeverden had not qualified for the Canoe-Kayak team. Sitting at home watching the first Olympic triathlon on a small television in his family room, something sparked within him.
“I watched this skinny kid from Kingston win the Olympics and no one thought he was going to, I thought ‘why not me?’ He’s just a kid from Kingston and I’m just a kid from Oakville – why not me?”
Having won the K1-1000 metre race at the World Championships in 2011, Van Koeverden arrived at the Games as one of Canada’s strongest medal contenders. Taking the silver, Van Koeverden remains one of Canada’s favourite athletes, and just maybe another skinny kid watching the Games at home has been motivated by his success, the way he was by Whitfield’s.