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Canadian Olympic kayaker Adam van Koeverden carries a kayak at the Burloak Canoe Club in Oakville, Ont. on Wednesday, June 13, 2012. (Aaron Vincent Elkaim/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Canadian Olympic kayaker Adam van Koeverden carries a kayak at the Burloak Canoe Club in Oakville, Ont. on Wednesday, June 13, 2012. (Aaron Vincent Elkaim/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

London 2012

Will this be Adam Van Koeverden’s last paddle? Add to ...

If this is Adam Van Koeverden’s Olympic swan song, he is not letting on. But he’s also not entirely ruling it out.

The buff 30-year-old kayak world champ from Oakville, Ont., already has three medals to his credit in the past two Games – a gold, silver and bronze – and will be racing for a fourth in the K1-1,000 metres in London.

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Van Koeverden begins that pursuit early Monday morning in the heats and semi-finals at Eton Dorney in his one and only event at the 2012 Games.

After carrying the flag in the closing ceremonies in Athens in 2004 and then again at the opening ceremonies in Beijing four years later, Van Koeverden said he feels much more like a grizzled veteran than in his past two Olympic experiences.

Not old, mind you, and not worn out.

Even more ready, he says.

“There’s more that’s different than similar I think,” Van Koeverden said of what’s changed since Beijing, where he finished eighth in the 1,000 metres but rebounded to win silver in the 500 metres the next day. “I’ve got a lot more experience, I’m older, I’m nervous in the right way and probably not nervous in the wrong ways any more. I know what to expect. I’m looking forward to it.

“And it seems smaller for some reason than Beijing. For whatever reason, Beijing seemed like we were going to the biggest celebration or sport of all time. Somehow London seems a little bit smaller.”

While Van Koeverden has continued to excel on the World Cup circuit, far from the spotlight, there have been changes in the past few years as he has prepared for the Games.

For one, his mother, Beata Bokrossy, has a profile of her own. A community coordinator in Mississauga, she has been sponsored as part of Procter & Gamble’s “Thank You Mom” program and has had her way paid to London.

“It’s pretty cool that she’s kind of sponsored,” Van Koeverden said, chuckling.

His coach, former Olympian Scott Oldershaw, also pointed out that Van Koeverden has cut down on his own commitments away from the sport, which in the past have included work with Right to Play, Olympic committees and speaking engagements.

The athlete and coach, meanwhile, have long moved past what went wrong in Beijing, as after analyzing the botched race to death, they simply concluded it was one of those days.

“Sometimes these things happen without understanding fully why,” Oldershaw said. “Happens to a lot of athletes. Happened once in his life, that kind of race.”

What comes after London for Van Koeverden isn’t laid out, not in specifics anyway.

Oldershaw expects his star pupil to take an extended break. Van Koeverden, meanwhile, knows he is closer to the end of his journey than the beginning but also says he hasn’t found a new challenge to prevent him from training and competing the way he always has.

It’s certainly possible that he’ll race again in Rio de Janeiro at the 2016 Games, at age 34. In a sport where plenty of older racers still excel – like Britain’s Tim Brabants, one of Van Koeverden’s top rivals and a close friend he’ll face in the heats – he hasn’t reached his best before date.

But Van Koeverden admits there’s also the chance other factors eventually take him away from the sport that has come to define him.

“I’ll always do sports and I’ll always be an athlete, but... I need a really good pull factor to get me to leave my sport,” he said of continuing as an Olympian beyond London. “Something outside to attract me to. To inspire me to do something different. Maybe a family. Maybe work. I don’t know.

“But I’m kind of racing every race like it might be my last now just because I know there’s more racing behind me than in front, that’s for sure. I can’t race another 17 years. I think I’ll be a grandfather or something.”

As for Van Koeverden’s chances here in London, Oldershaw likes what he has seen.

He is racing as fast as he ever has, is laser focused and remains as always one of the favourites in a field with four or five men all posting similar times of late.

“I know what he’s capable of,” Oldershaw said. “Come race day you always hope he has the best race day possible. He’ll be on the podium if he races as well as he can, for sure.”