DORNEY, England (Reuters) - Fresh off the water from an imperious display in his semi-final, Canada’s Adam van Koeverden recalled the years of racing that have got him to where he is now, ready to face his demons in an event that brought him down four years ago.
The intense 30-year-old will contest the final of the men’s blue-riband kayak with the weight of his country’s expectations on his shoulders, seeking to atone for his performance in Beijing when he finished an inexplicable eighth.
Such was his sense of loss then that the part-time motivational speaker and 2008 Canadian flag bearer felt the need to apologize to the nation for letting them down.
Standing next to Britain’s Tim Brabants on Monday, his long-time adversary who took the gold in Beijing, Van Koeverden reminded himself and the world’s press of the years of racing he has endured and the friendships forged in his bid for another Olympic title.
”Tim and I have been racing together since 2000, 2001,“ he said. ”And I remember in the World Cup in 2001 in Paris, I was 19, he was 24 and had an Olympic bronze medal around his neck already. I came off the water feeling pretty stoked that I’d finished seventh or something and he’d won and he’d just said congrats on making the final.
“I realized then that making the final is a big deal at that stage in my career, it was a really big deal for me and to have that degree of camaraderie 11, 12 years later is pretty cool.”
For the last two Summer Games, the muscular kayaker has been the face of his country’s Olympic Games.
With a gold and bronze medal from Athens in 2004, Van Koeverden started the final on Lake Shunyi as the joint favorite alongside Brabants for the 1,000 meter title. Despite shining in earlier rounds he was left standing as the field powered away, leaving him to come in eighth.
He told Reuters in an interview in June that the events in Beijing, where he also won a silver medal in the shorter 500 meter sprint, were behind him.
“There were lots of expectations on me and I had a lot of pressure on myself,” he said, after racing in his trademark sunglasses and cap worn back to front.
“I don’t look back four years. I‘m not looking back to see what I did wrong when I was 26.”
Having backed off to conserve his energies in the heat, Van Koeverden surged to victory on Dorney Lake on the first day of the Olympic canoeing competition in the semi-final.
Asked if he would need the performance of his life to win the gold in the 1,000 final, he replied: “I hope so. I’ve had a few other performances of my life. I‘m putting a lot of pressure on myself, I just want to race fast.”
The Canadian will contest the final on Wednesday where he will likely face Germany’s Max Hoff as his closest challenger. Brabants scraped into the final, less than five hundredths of a second ahead of the next finisher.
Editing by Ed Osmond