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Van Koeverden Relishes Third Olympic Trip, Looking Forward To Competing

08/05/2012 09:05 EDT | Updated 10/05/2012 05:12 EDT
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LONDON - Adam van Koeverden has pretty much done it all at the Olympics. He's won gold, silver and bronze and carried the Canadian flag at both the opening and closing ceremonies.

But the veteran kayaker from Oakville, Ont., was still amped when he got to his third Games.

"Even just like the rings everywhere. And wearing your accreditation ... It just feels like a big thing, because it is," he said.

"When we go to World Cup, sometimes in pretty obscure locations like Racice, Czech Republic, like nobody's every heard of that place and nobody shows up to watch because it's out in the middle of nowhere. So that's kind of what our sport's all about. So coming to something like this where they're expecting 30,000 soldout seats ... it's pretty cool."

With the canoe-kayak sprint venue the domain of the rowers the first week of the Games, van Koeverden and his Canadian teammates had their final pre-Olympic camp in France before moving into a satellite athletes village near the Eton Dorney course outside of Windsor.

At 30, van Koeverden is hardly a relic. But teammates like 19-year-old C-200 paddler Jason McCoombs of Dartmouth, N.S., are making him feel his age — and think back a little.

Van Koeverden was fiddling with a Rubik's cube the other day when he noticed McCoombs watching him and "gasping every time I was doing something wrong."

He handed the cube over to McCoombs, who solved the puzzle in seconds.

"Instantly he just upstaged the dude who's been on the team for 15 years," van Koeverden said with a grin.

Van Koeverden remembers learning from the likes of Steve Giles, Larry Cain and Caroline Brunet.

He was 19 when he went to his first senior world championship in 2001 and remembers absorbing plenty from his elders.

"It's mostly by what you do, your actions. You lead by example and you just kind of conduct yourself in the manner you think your teammates should also conduct themselves and they generally follow suit. I think I did."

In the years since, van Koeverden reckons he has moderated and matured. But he does not feel he needs to school the first-year Olympians on this squad.

"They're not rookies. They're not new to their sport. Jason's been paddling since he was like 10. He knows what he's doing and he's capable of winning. So it's not doing them any favours to call them rookies. They don't need their bums patted."

Van Koeverden has his own resources, with coach Scott Oldershaw front and centre.

"I've been around Scott almost every day for like 17 years," he said.

"We don't have the same kind of coach-athlete relationship as you'd see with other athletes. He doesn't tell me what to do. I just know what to do because he's told me what to do like 10 years ago."

Van Koeverden says being at his third Olympics "is totally different, but it's the same as well."

He points to his "naivety" at Athens in 2004, which he said helped him. "I kind of showed up and it was like 'This is cool, let's race.'"

"The second one (Games) might be your hardest ... because you've got all these expectations," he added.

Van Koeverden won gold (K-500) and bronze (K-1,000) in Athens. He added a silver (K-500) in Beijing where he placed eighth in the K-1,000.

He says he is comfortable in his own skin for these Games, knowing that anything can happen on the day and that past results don't mean much.

"I'm inspired to compete and I'm inspired to bring my best on the day and forget about what happened two months ago and eight months ago and 12 months ago."

With the K-500 replaced by the K-200, van Koeverden will only contest the K-1,000. He won the event at last year's world championships.

"I don't even think about the 500 in training any more," said van Koeverden, who starts racing in heats Monday.

Asked whether there is a fourth Olympics in his future, van Koeverden talks of "push factors" and "pull factors."

Push factors are sport-related. Pull factors could be a non-sports opportunity or a relationship that makes it difficult to be away so much during the year.

"Those things exist on a ledger for me and when it tips towards one side, I'll make a decision. But right now I'm very fulfilled with that side of my life."

He does plan to tweak his training, saying he is tired of a lengthy stint in Florida each winter and wants to mix it up.

As for his sport, he says he has become a better finisher. And the fields he is competing in have become far more competitive. There is no longer a handful of top guys who dominate races. Now the talent is widely spread.

"So I'm not counting anybody out and I'm not putting anybody on the podium prior to Wednesday (the final). I'm just looking forward to competing and going as fast as I can.

"If I go fast as I can and I come fourth, then I'll be happy with it because this is not a combative sport. I don't have to beat anybody up. I just have to go as fast as I can in my lane."

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