Adam Van Koeverden

After the Podium (s)Canadian Sprint Kayaker

Adam van Koeverden’s bio reads like a record book: Four Olympic medals over four Games, eight World Championship medals, and three World Records in kayaking, including two that fell to… Adam van Koeverden. He won the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s premiere athlete in 2004. He was Canada’s flagbearer at the 2008 games’ opening ceremonies (and the closing ceremony in Athens). He’s competed on nearly every body of water the planet has offered to competitive kayaking. But what happens when it becomes time to let the next generation strive for their dreams?

Some athletes go into media, coaching, or venture into a new industry, new challenges. But for many, they begin by simply going home. Adam van Koeverden is no different.

“The transition from competitive sport has been challenging, but I’ve enjoyed that challenge of staying in one place. Before I retired I was traveling eight months out of the year. But having a favorite coffee shop, a trail route, and a running club that I belong to and a group of friends that I see regularly at local events—that’s not been part of the challenge. That’s been part of the plus of staying home and being part of a great community like Milton.”

Milton, Ontario is an oasis of nature that has timelessly withstood the GTA’s inevitable urban expansion. Despite being at the epicentre of Canada’s most populous region, Milton offers a bucolic comfort that makes it unique. Embraced by the Niagara Escarpment and Bruce Trail, Milton has eased van Koeverden’s transition by offering resources active body craves and amenities that foster a social foundation.

“We’re a product of choices that we make,” he says. “The biggest choice we make as an adult is where you’re going to live. When I was considering where I wanted to live, I knew that I couldn’t live without access to great parks and conservation areas, and the reality of being a retiring athlete that I needed to be able to afford a house. That’s why I chose Milton because there’s growth potential, it’s affordable and has the proximity to awesome trails for mountain biking and my dog. That’s the dream for me.”

Dreams evolve, but they are forever informed by home. “The first time I ever tried kayaking was in Rockwood, just north of Milton at a summer camp. I was sitting in a boat thinking, ‘this is pretty cool. I like this kind of exercise, just paddling around the lake.’”Having realized the ultimate dreams of sport, van Koeverden has found a new focus for his reverie: politics. He will run for the Liberal Party of Canada in the fall 2019 federal election, in the Milton riding.

“I really enjoyed representing my country. I’ve always enjoyed and gotten a lot out of standing up for things that I believe in. I had the luxury of doing quite a lot of great community and charity work. Being purposely engaged in something and with people who are similarly motivated is the most rewarding thing. When I started thinking about what I wanted to do next I kept coming across a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King: ‘Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others’”

So how does world-class kayaking prepare one for the world of politics? “Kayaking was cold and repetitive and knocking on doors for the last six months have been cold and lonely and repetitive,” laughs van Koeverden. “But instead of 10,000-strokes-a-day, I knock on 200-doors-a-day, sometimes 500. I meet my neighbor and talk about issues, about positive politics. That’s what being a good neighbor and a is all about.”