When Adam van Koeverden doesn’t make the international podium, he usually isn’t very satisfied.
But after a fifth-place finish in the K-2 500 metres at the world sprint canoe-kayak championships on Lake Banook yesterday, the three-time Olympic medallist came to terms with the result the minute he stepped off the water.
“It’s completely acceptable to be fifth in the world today given everything I’ve gone through,” he said.
Two months ago, the 27-year-old from Oakville, Ont., was being airlifted by helicopter out of the Grand Canyon after breaking his ankle on a whitewater rafting trip.
The fact that he had even made the podium at all on the weekend — in the K-1 1,000 on Saturday — was remarkable considering the two weeks he spent on crutches in June.
His time of 1:39.043 in the 500 was about 3.5 seconds off his gold- and silver-medal-winning Olympic finishes.
“It wasn’t the race I dreamed of,” van Koeverden admitted. “But it wasn’t the season I dreamed of, either.”
Van Koeverden’s race was first of the day, but most fans made sure they were on hand to see it. The popular paddler saluted them for their support after his race, maneuvering his kayak in front of the stands and twirling his cap.
“It’s rare that you get to thank your home fans for their cheering and enthusiasm,” van Koeverden said. “It was nice, even though my head was a little bit down.”
This is the second straight summer that van Koeverden hasn’t lived up to his own expectations. But he said the injury has helped him appreciate his career more, and he is “still really focused on going fast” as he retools for the 2012 Olympics.
“I’m hungry for next year and everything’s great,” he said. “I still really, really enjoy racing my kayak for a living.”