Interview: Olympic kayaker Adam van Koeverden
This summer will be Adam van Koeverden’s third Olympic Games, though he began kayaking at the age of 13 when he joined the Burloak Canoe Club in his hometown of Oakville, Ontario. Since then, he’s gone on to capture gold in the K-1 500 meters in Athens, a silver in the same event in Beijing, and has been chosen to carry Canada’s flag in Olympic opening and closing ceremonies, among countless other athletic accomplishments. Before heading off to England for his last leg of training for the 2012 Olympic Games, van Koeverden stopped by explore‘s office to chat a bit about what’s to come and even shared a few of his favourite places to paddle in the country.
Explore: How much down time are you getting these days?
Adam van Koeverden: Not a lot of down time, but I have just enjoyed a little bit. I’m training 10 times a week on the water, which is the same as always, but the kilometers are changing a bit. I’ve pretty much done all of my high-volume training. I’m down to about 17 or 18 hours of training a week, and it will taper down more as we approach the Olympics. Earlier in the year it was closer to 20 or 25. I’m starting do more specific work and higher intensity.
Explore: You recently won a bronze, silver and a gold at the World Cup in Moscow. How does that affect your mindset for the Olympics? Does it get you pumped up, or do you have to keep your ego in check a bit?
AV: No, it doesn’t change anything actually. I’ve won lots of World Cups in my career to be honest and early season results have never really indicated who’s going to win later in the summer. It’s nice to win a race, but it’s not the Olympics.
Explore: What’s going through your head right now, heading to England for the Olympics so soon?
AV: Well, we’re not really that close yet. I’m still in training, so it’s really just about focusing on tomorrow. I take it day by day. I’m not too wound up and try not to give into the hype. This is also my third time, so I guess I can relax a little bit. Obviously I’m excited to compete, but I’m not letting it get out of control yet. I don’t think you can remain super excited for seven or eight weeks. I mean, you’re just going to burn out—I know from experience. You have to kind of gauge your arousal level.
Explore: How does it compare to previous Olympics you’ve competed in, in terms of build-up and anticipation?
AV: It’s different. Every Olympics is different. I mean it was a while ago, but I went to my first Olympic Games when I was 22, and I was quite naïve and didn’t know what to expect. I had a pretty open mind, and that was really good, but at the time I was coming off some really good races, so I did put a lot of pressure on myself. In hindsight I do think I competed quite well. You know, nobody said it was going to be easy to win a Gold medal at the Olympics. It’s definitely a challenge—just because you win a race doesn’t mean you’re going to win the next one. So I’m always kind of focused on the next race and not what happened behind me.
Explore: I’m sure our readers would be interested to know, what are some of your favourite places to paddle across the country?
AV: Obviously Algonquin Park is a good destination for flatwater paddling, but it wouldn’t be one of my top places, only because I’m there all the time, so I feel like I’ve already staked claim there. Around the Queen Charlottes and Haida Gwaii—the west coast of Vancouver Island—is really awesome and I’d love to go back. The other place I’ve been that I’d really love to go back to is just outside of St. John’s with a guy named Sam Cook. He’s a great guy that takes people in and out of these fjords and past icebergs. It’s really, really awesome stuff.
My dream spot to kayak would be somewhere up north. I would love to paddle around Baffin Island or maybe around the Yukon River or Mackenzie River. It’s just so raw there and it’s a different kind of kayaking than I do. It’s very challenging and the terrain is quite varied. I’m not an expert whitewater paddler by any means, but I’m pretty comfortable in a kayak.