The Lou Marsh Legacy - Honouring Canada's Top Athletes

Adam van Koeverden



Photograph of kayaker Adam van Koeverden

Photograph of kayaker Adam van Koeverden

August 24, 2004
The Canadian Press/Andre Forget

Future Olympians Wanted!

A mother presented her 13 year old son with a Burloak Canoe Club advertisement clipped out of the Oakville Beaver newspaper. It read: Future Olympians Wanted.

The teenager by his own admission was a tad lazy, a bit of a klutz, and more interested in reading and playing the guitar than sports. He spent a lot of time on the ‘bench’ in school sports and didn’t hear too many encouraging words from his coaches.

He had paddled at summer camp and quite enjoyed it, so he went to the club for a look. A welcoming and contagious atmosphere engendered by great coaches and generations of champion canoeists and kayakers immediately grabbed him. The kayak had found him. He became obsessed with the sport and to the surprise of his parents and himself he turned out to be have a very high tolerance for hard work, a great aerobic capacity, and a very low resting heart rate, highly desirable characteristics for an Olympian.

Nine years later, Adam van Koeverden came home from the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, proudly wearing his gold medal from the Canoe/Kayak K-1 500 metre sprint and the bronze medal from the K-1 1000 metre.

Adam often wonders what might have happened if his mother hadn’t clipped that ad. It transformed his life.

As he progressed in the kayak and his Olympic dream grew, he learned that it was hard work that separated the best from the rest. In a sport that demands brute strength, power, technique, and of course experience, Adam passionately embraced a fanatical training regimen. He would have to overcome his relative inexperience in the sport by developing a superior stroke and a stronger engine.

Adam’s description of the K-1 500 metre discipline sounds daunting. “At about 115 strokes a minute, it’s fast, it’s a lung burner, and it’s an excruciating test of your ability to tolerate lactic acid. It is more-or-less 100 seconds of controlled chaos, and three-quarters into the race, every single time, you question whether you’re going to make it to the finish line.” (A. van Koeverden, personal communication, 24 March 2009)

Adam knows the discomfort of this event well and he relishes it. Never has it been more welcome than at the finish line in Athens when he provided exactly 97.919 seconds of the most intense sporting drama imaginable. He paddled a perfect controlled come-from-behind pace to clip defending K-1 500 metre World Champion Nathan Baggaley of Australia, at just the right moment, only metres from the finish line. In fact, the top four paddlers finished inside three-quarters of a second apart. Adam van Koeverden was the youngest and smallest man on the podium, but on this day his tank was the deepest. His work ethic had been amply rewarded.

Parents, coaches, kids…pay attention…there may be another Adam van Koeverden in your midst!

Strokes of inspiration Adobe PDF Transcript


World Junior Championships – Bronze medal in K-1 1000m
World Junior Marathon Championships – 1st place
World Championships – Silver medal in K-1 1000m
Athens Summer Olympic Games – Gold medal in K-1 500m, Bronze medal in K1 1000m
Lou Marsh Memorial Award
Flatwater Racing World Championships – Silver medal in K-1 1000m, Bronze medal in K-1 500m
Syl Apps Award – Ontario’s Top Athlete of the Year
Canadian Sprint Canoe Championships – Gold medal in K-1 1000m, K-2 1000m, K-4 1000m, K-4 200m and War Canoe, Silver medal in K-1 200m, K-2 200m
Flatwater Racing World Championships – Gold medal in K-1 500m, Silver medal in K-1 1000m
Beijing Summer Olympic Games – Silver medal in K-1 500m
World Canoe and Kayak Championships – Bronze medal in K-1 1000m