The Right to Play athlete ambassador will join a group of supporters next month in a bid to climb the highest mountain in Africa. They will attempt to reach the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in a quest to raise $100,000 for the international humanitarian organization.
Van Koeverden, who won his fourth career Olympic medal last summer, said he's looking forward to trying something new while taking a break from the rigours of kayak training.
"I definitely want to keep paddling but I definitely want to go on some adventures," van Koeverden said this week. "Because while as exciting as my kayaking career has been, it's just been kayaking. So I'm really interested in just diversifying my portfolio a little bit and going on hikes, mountain bike trips and camping trips and other kinds of paddling are (all) on that list.
"While this satisfies an urge to give back and to raise awareness and raise money for Right to Play, it also satisfies an urge for adventure."
The six-day effort, called "Climbing for a Cause," begins Nov. 12. It's being organized by the Right To Play Champions Program, which brings together business professionals to raise funds and awareness.
Mount Kilimanjaro is located in northeastern Tanzania near the Kenyan border. Its peak is nearly 6,000 metres from sea level.
"From what I understand, it's not a very technical climb," van Koeverden said. "It's a very long — I don't want to stay leisurely — but it's not a super-technical climb. So my main concern is the altitude and not the fitness component."
While van Koeverden has toned down his usual in-season training routine, he keeps in shape with regular paddling and recreational activities. He has started preparations by running on trails and getting gear together to make sure he'll be well outfitted.
"I'm going to do a couple of little hikes," he said. "But to be honest, I'm going to rely on 17 years of aerobic training to get me through that part and then I'm going to take the altitude preparedness very seriously."
The 30-year-old from Oakville, Ont., won silver in the men's 1,000 metres at the 2012 Games in London. He won gold and bronze at the 2004 Games in Athens and added silver four years later at the Beijing Olympics.
Van Koeverden, who leaves for Africa on Nov. 6, has been a Right to Play ambassador since 2006. After the climb, he'll head to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to visit Right To Play programs.
"It's a little bit about developing awareness and a lot about raising money," he said of his trip.
Right to Play started operations in refugee camps in western Tanzania in 2001. The organization uses sports and games to help children build life skills and better futures.
Van Koeverden has previously visited Right To Play programs in Liberia and Mali.
"It's gratifying to know that I'm part of something bigger than just my own little kayak career," he said.
Notes: Right to Play was founded in 2000 by four-time Olympic speed-skating champion Johann Olav Koss. ... Van Koeverden has included a fundraising link on the blog section of his website at http://vankayak.com/.