For four long agonizing years, Mark Oldershaw has been haunted by his failure to make the canoe sprint finals in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
That haunted feeling finally disappeared on a sunny Monday morning, when he qualified for the medal round in the 1000-metre single (C1) canoe race at the London Olympics.
“I was a little nervous that I wouldn’t make the final again and be a huge disappointment to everyone,” he said after two back-to-back qualifying races. “But I just stuck to my race plan and know I am as fast or faster than all these guys if I just do my thing and not panic.”
Oldershaw, 29, races for a medal on Wednesday. If he wins, he will do the family proud. He is the grandson, son and nephew of four Olympians in the canoe or kayak events. His grandfather Bert made his first of thee Olympic appearances in the 1948 edition of the London Olympics. Mark Oldershaw’s appearance in the 2012 Games marks the family’s ninth trip to the Games, making the Oldershaws a genuine Canadian Olympic dynastry.
Monday was a big day for another Canadian, Adam Van Koeverden who easily paddled his way to the finals in the 1000-metre single kayak race. In both the heat and the semi-final, he left the competition in his wake, in spite of intentionally cruising across the finish line to conserve energy, putting him in good position to win gold on Wednesday.
If he ends up on the top of the podium, his Olympic medal tally will rise to four. He took gold and bronze in the 2004 Athens Games and silver in 2008 in Beijing.
In spite of his seemingly effortless victories on Monday, Van Koeverden admitted to having a fairly bad case of the nerves before Monday’s twin races.
The 30-year-old from Oakville, Ont., woke up Monday morning at about 4, more than two hours before his alarm was to go off. “I’m putting of a lot of pressure on myself,” he said. “I just want to race fast.”
Van Koeverden won’t say whether London is his last Olympics, but his age is certainly working against him, even though he remains at the top of his game. An overwhelming desire to leave London with a gold medal may explain his tossing and turning in the wee hours of the morning.
Oldershaw faces a highly competitive medal race. He goes against two Olympic champions, two world champions and the current European champion. “I feel completely prepared and whether I win a medal or not, I just feel I’ve done everything I can,” he said. “And when you have that feeling, it’s easier to sleep.”
His coach and father Scott Oldershaw, who is a former Olympian, said he isn’t thinking about the famous family legacy as he prepares his son for Wednesday’s big event. “I don’t really think of the family stuff right now,” he said. “That’s probably for after and before. But right now, it’s just for [Mark]…Making an Olympic final is always a big deal.”
Scott said Mark is highly relieved to have made the final. “He failed to make the final in Beijing,” Scott said. “That’s always hanging over your head when that happens, so this is a big step and the pressure is off now and I think he’ll perform better because of it.”
Canadian double kayakers Ryan Cochrane and Hugues Fournel made the finals in their event, the 1000-metre race. Their main race, however, is the 200-metre sprint. Due to a technicality, they had to enter the longer race on Monday so they could compete in the shorter one.