DARTMOUTH, N.S. — Adam Van Koeverden exorcised some demons at the world canoe and kayak championships Saturday.
Almost exactly a year after his disappointing eighth-place finish at the 2008 Olympics in the 1,000-metre kayak race, Van Koeverden won the bronze medal after setting the early pace in the K-1 1,000 final.
Van Koeverden clung to the lead until Anders Gustafsson of Sweden overtook him in the third quarter and Max Hoff of Germany passed both of them in the final 250 metres.
But the paddler from Oakville, Ont., said he was happy with the performance considering the obstacles he overcame to get there.
“A bronze is a bronze and I’m more proud of this medal than I am of a lot of my other ones ’cause it took a lot today, so I’m happy,” said Van Koeverden, who lived near where the race was held with his family for a couple of years in the mid-1980s. “Being up on the podium with two good friends, home soil, you can’t really beat that.”
The 27-year-old broke his ankle in June during a whitewater kayaking trip to the Grand Canyon and spent most of the week diplomatically answering questions about his health. He conceded Saturday that the injury had set him back.
“The truth is I missed a bit of training and I wasn’t completely ideal but these are the challenges, they make us better people and I think they made me a better paddler.”
He said he’d endured a restless night in anticipation of Saturday morning’s race, which he viewed as an opportunity to erase some of the painful memories of Beijing.
“I was stressed out this morning. I didn’t sleep very well last night and I knew that I wanted some retribution from last year’s 1,000 at the Olympics,” said Van Koeverden. “I knew I wanted to prove to myself that I could be back up on that podium and I knew I was at a bit of a disadvantage.”
Van Koeverden, who rebounded to win a silver medal in the K-1 500 at the 2008 Olympics, has another shot at a medal Sunday, in the K-1 500 final. He won gold in the 500 at the 2007 worlds in Germany and the 2004 Athens Olympics.
“It’s a clean slate, fresh start,” he said. “I think I can rest easy knowing that I’m in good form — have a really good relaxing afternoon, have a good night of sleep and come back and take it out on the water in the morning.”
Van Koeverden and Christine Gauthier of Pointe-Claire, Que., were the only Canadians to make it to the podium Saturday from the nine finals in which Canada had entries. Gauthier, 39, raced to the gold in the first-ever women’s K-1 200 medal event for sprint canoe athletes with physical disabilities.
Mark Oldershaw of Burlington, Ont., came within an eyelash of following his good friend to the medal presentations. Oldershaw finished fourth in the C-1 1,000 final, missing out on a bronze by three-tenths of a second in a strong field that relegated defending world and Olympic champion Attila Vajda of Hungary to eighth place.
“It’s tough, it’s a frustrating spot to be, but it’s still fourth in the world so it’s something to be proud of,” said Oldershaw.
“I was hoping for a little bit more speed in the middle, I guess it just wasn’t quite as fast as the other guys, but once I got to the last 300 metres I heard the crowd and felt the adrenalin and just decided to go for it.”
Oldershaw also had another medal opportunity Sunday, in the C-1 500 final, while Andrew Russell of Dartmouth, N.S., and his partner, Gabriel Beauchesne-Sevigny of Trois-Rivieres, Que., will compete in the C-2 500.
Russell and Beauchesne-Sevigny were eighth in Saturday’s C-2 1,000 final.
Germany bagged seven medals Saturday to lead all countries, while Hungary and France collected three each.