Navigating the open waters and paddling his way to success on the world stage.
For Adam van Koeverden it began with humble beginnings at the Burloak Canoe Club in Oakville in 1995, when he was only 13 years old. Not an overly gifted athlete, he started kayaking on the advice of his mother who saw an ad in the local newspaper for a recruitment drive which read “Future Champions Wanted.”
At first, the Burloak Canoe Club was just a great outlet to visit after school. Soon it was before school, too, and not long after the Canoe Club felt like home.
Participating in kayaking allowed van Koeverden’s strength as an individual to shine, and gave him the chance to develop as an athlete.
One of his finest performances came at the 2004 Summer Olympics, where van Koeverden won two medals, including a gold in the K-1 500 m and a bronze in the K-1 1000 m. He was Canada’s flag bearer at the closing ceremonies and was later awarded the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s top athlete of 2004.
He had great success on the World Cup circuit in 2007, going undefeated over both 500 m and 1000 m in three competitions. At the 2007 ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships in Duisburg, van Koeverden won the gold medal in the K-1 500 m and the silver medal in the K-1 1000 m.
When reflecting on his career, van Koeverden discussed the ups and downs athletes go through when competing, and explained that all athletes have to work through adversity at some point or another.
“Athletes deal with all sorts of adversity throughout their careers,” van Koeverden said. “In my case, I think when I reflect back, I probably lost a lot more races than I ever won. My main take away from that is when I was on a trip to Europe for a World Cup event, I always knew I would be coming home with a lesson or a medal. Sometimes the lesson was more valuable than the medal.”
He beat his own world record in the K-1 500 m at the 2008 Beijing Olympics with a time of 1:35.554.He finished eighth place in the 1000m race, and finished with a silver medal in the K-1 500 m race.
Originally, van Koeverden had been listed as bronze medalist, until the scoreboard was corrected to indicate he had finished second. He had led most of the way from the start, but was overtaken by the Australian winner Ken Wallace at the finish line, with British bronze medalist Tim Brabants ending in a photo finish with him.
In the lead up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, van Koeverden was named flag bearer for the Canadian Olympic team at the opening ceremony, making him one of the few athletes to carry Canada’s flag twice at the Olympics.
“Looking back at my career it is tough to pinpoint just one special memory or highlight. When I carried the flag at the start of the 2008 Olympics is probably the proudest moment that I will always remember and cherish,” van Koeverden said. “Honestly, looking back it is hard to describe how I felt on that day, as it was such a whirlwind, with so much going on and the stadium just full with so many people. It was an amazing opportunity to celebrate being Canadian and to be able to do that with a few hundred of my heroes, which were also my teammates competing in the Olympics.”
He added silver at London 2012 in the K-1 1000m, an event in which he had won the world title in dominant fashion in 2011. That was his second world title, having won the K-1 500m in 2007, and part of his collection of eight world championship medals.
In 2015 van Koeverden competed at his first Pan Am Games, winning K-1 1000m bronze on home water in Toronto.
In his fourth Olympic Games at Rio 2016, van Koeverden finished first in the B final, placing ninth overall in the K-1 1000m, but posted a faster time than the silver medalist from the A final.