After winning four medals for Canada in the past three summer Olympics, including a gold medal in 2004, and eight world championship medals, it's safe to say that kayaker Adam Van Koeverden has nothing left to prove in his sport. And yet, on the eve of his 31st birthday, Van Koeverden could be found at the Canadian Sport Institute gym in Whistler, getting back into shape.
He doesn't know with absolute certainty if he's going to be able to represent Canada at the 2016 Games in Rio, but after a few months off to heal an injured elbow and think things over he was in.
"It's a lot to be asking somebody what they're going to be doing the next three-and-a-half years and I'm not 100 per cent sure, but I'm going to keep training because I love what I'm doing," he said. "I'm getting older, I've got some little things to take care of, like injuries, but I'm going for it. There are never any guarantees in sport and I'm going for it with that in mind.
"I've had a really good career, and if I had to hang up my paddle tomorrow I'd be satisfied and stoked to embrace an active and adventurous lifestyle away from training. But right now I think I'm going to stay in my boat — which I didn't do much last fall, so I have some work to do!"
Van Koeverden doesn't have any specific goals, but then again he never does. He did go into the London Games this summer with the ambition of winning in the 500-metre race, but in the end he said his goal was just to race as hard as he could. "I came second. I got beat by a guy who is a good friend of mine and who really deserved it, and I can't be upset with my performance," he said.
"My goal was to race as well as I could because that's what I can control. I can't control what other guys are doing. Eirik (Larsen) simply went faster than any other guy could have... I tried my best and finished the race completely exhausted; it's what I could do. So my goal going forward is to do my best every single time."
"I'm still paddling because I love my lifestyle, I think I'm still contributing to my squad and there's no reason I can't just set new goals."
Taking three months off only reaffirmed Van Koeverden's commitment. "I got out of shape pretty quickly, and it's a lot more fun to be in shape," he said.
He was also inspired by all the new funding and focus on excellence in Canadian sports, as well as by his role with the Canadian Olympic Committee. One battle he's eager to fight is over tuition: the Canadian Olympic Committee pays post-secondary tuition for active athletes, but may reduce payments because of rising tuition rates across the country. While Van Koeverden earned his degree six years ago, he'd like to work with stakeholders including universities to fully fund the program in the future.
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