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Adam van Koeverden in top form heading to Olympic final

Adam van Koeverden powering his way to the final in the Olympic 1,000 metre kayak race. (Reuters)

Will Wednesday's 1,000-metre kayak race be a mere coronation for Canada's Adam van Koeverden?

The reigning world champion (he won the gold at the World Championships in 2011) looked awfully good, in a heat and then the semi final that followed on Monday morning, at the Eton Dorney Olympic basin.

"I had a really good start," van Koeverden told CBC sports. "Wind is good. It will affect the canoers more. I have a whole day to recover. I'll maybe paddle this afternoon. I'm in a good mood!"

He will enter the final as the fastest qualifier, crossing the finish line in the semi with a time of 3 minutes, 28.20 seconds, more than a second faster than Germany's Max Hoff, who some see as van Koeverden's chief competition here. Hoff competed in a separate semi, winning it in a time of 3 minutes, 29.24 seconds.

[Slideshow: Adam van Koeverden wins semifinal]

Despite looking cool and calm, and even cruising a little at the end of both races in order to conserve energy, van Koeverden is apparently feeling a little uneasy, according to the Globe and Mail:

The 30-year-old from Oakville, Ont., woke up Monday morning at about 4, more than two hours before his alarm was to go off.  "I'm putting of a lot of pressure on myself," he said. "I just want to race fast."

When he puts his mind to something, van Koeverden is about as determined as they come. If he's that dialed in right now, it's almost impossible to see him missing the podium on Wednesday, although he would warn against such supposition:

"I've had lots of great races in the last 12 months, but I don't deserve a medal more than somebody else just because I raced a couple of races better than some other guy. We're here to race. I'm inspired to compete and inspired to bring my best on the day, and forget about what happened two months ago and eight months ago and 12 months ago." -Postmedia

So the man, himself, would tell you not to count those chickens just yet, knowing anything can happen on race day, as it did in 2008, when he finished last in the 1,000-metre event in Beijing. At that time, however, the 500-metre event was van Koeverden's specialty, not the 1,000. Since the 500 was eliminated from Olympic competition, van Koeverden has concentrated on the kilometre long discipline, winning a World Cup race at the distance in Moscow, this past June.

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If he paddles his way to another Olympic medal on Wednesday, it will be his fourth. Van Koeverden won gold and silver in the 500 metres in Athens and Beijing, respectively, as well as bronze in the 1,000 metres, in Athens.

Winning his semi final is a big deal, because, according to van Koeverden, paddling in a middle lane (which is reserved for top qualifiers) is advantageous. He tells Sunmedia:

"I want a middle lane. because if you get stuck on the outside and it's wavy, it's a gamble. You're rolling the chips if you come in fourth."

There has been some speculation that this may be van Koeverden's last Olympics, although he's not saying. Wednesday's gold medal race goes at 4:30 am, eastern time, and can be seen on CTV.

Canada has another medal hope at Eton Dorney. Mark Oldershaw will compete in the 1,000-metre canoe race, after qualifying on Monday. It's a relief for Oldershaw, who failed to make the final four years ago in Beijing.

"I was a little nervous that I wouldn't make the final again and be a huge disappointment to everyone," Oldershaw told the Globe. "But I just stuck to my race plan and know I am as fast or faster than all these guys if I just do my thing and not panic."

Oldershaw's final goes after van Koeverden's, scheduled for 4:48 am ET, on Wednesday.

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