A free helicopter ride around the Grand Canyon might sound like the highlight of a memorable summer vacation.

But when it’s the Arizona Department of Public Safety airlifting you out after you broke your ankle while whitewater rafting — and you’re one of Canada’s most recognizable Olympians — that free ride is a nightmare you’d rather forget.

That’s the story three-time Olympic medallist Adam van Koeverden has to tell heading into the world sprint canoe-kayak championships tomorrow in Dartmouth, N.S.

“It probably wasn’t the best way to get a Grand Canyon helicopter trip around the Hoover Dam,” van Koeverden admitted with a wry grin at a press conference yesterday.

The injury certainly didn’t help his bid to rebound after a disappointing showing at last summer’s Beijing Olympics, where he offered a dejected apology on national television for an eighth-place finish in the K-1 1,000 metres.

Yet the only visible evidence of the June 16 accident is a three-inch scar on his right ankle — the result of surgery and having four half-inch screws drilled into his fibula.

He’s calling the whole thing a “positive experience.”

“I got back on the water feeling better than I did when I left,” he said. “The rest definitely did its job.”

The 27-year-old Oakville, Ont., native said he only took three days of training completely off and had “a solid seven weeks of preparation” for the world championships.

“It was a challenge,” he said. “But every athlete likes a challenge.”

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