Adam van Koeverden after winning Olympic gold in 2004. -CP
Decorated kayaker Adam van Koeverden thinks it's a crying shame that there aren't more Canadian Olympians getting more attention, more often.
As the three-time Olympic medallist gets set to attempt adding to his medal haul in London, he's done his best to ignite a little passion for his teammates.
He took a little shot at the Toronto Maple Leafs and their fans along the way, too, in a recent interview with the Toronto Star's Dave Feschuck:
"I just think it's a joke that people are way more interested in reading about a losing team than reading about a bunch of people going over to the Olympics for Canada. Like, really? Your team sucks."
We'll see how this goes over in the city in which van Koeverden resides, where Leaf fans treat their team like many boys treat their kid brother. It's okay if they pick on them but nobody else had better.
A gifted athlete and communicator, it's doubtful van Koeverden made a mistake with his statement. While he's passionate and opinionated, it's not often that he gets caught blurting out something that doesn't have some sort of master plan behind it.
Quite likely, he's so distressed about the plight of the javelin thrower and the long-distance runner that he felt strong, attention-getting words were needed to push the conversation to the fore. It's just that Canadian Olympians are getting plenty of attention right now as the Olympics come into view. Wouldn't the comments have been better timed in the days and weeks after the games have ended?
van Koeverden has no beef with the amount of love the team receives at the big show, just the lack thereof when the 5 ring circus is not on the horizon. He continued, with Feschuck:
"My argument or complaint regarding Olympic team coverage is regarding the non-Olympic window, it's about the other three-and-a-half years of the quadrennial. I also want to make it clear that I'm not complaining, or angry that I don't get enough attention or coverage myself. I feel that I do."
Certainly, van Koeverden gets plenty of attention, particularly considering he takes part in an event that most Canadians would have, at best, a curiosity about when the weight of Olympic gold is not attached. It's to his credit that he's parlayed notoriety in such an event to the extent he has, with a name that many Canadians know and a face that's familiar, what with his association with clothing manufacturer Roots.
It's laudable that van Koeverden wants his compatriots to be bigger celebrities and to have their dedication and hard work mean something more than just at the times the big cameras and bright lights of the Olympiad come calling. However, is it realistic to believe that Canadians will begin to flock to track and field events, watersport events and the like, when the world's biggest deal isn't involved? A harsh truth may just be that for many of these athletes and their sports, the Olympics make them and not the other way around. Because of that, it will remain an awfully hard sell to make a hammer thrower or a synchro swimmer a household name as they grunt it out in the years between Olympic Games.
If it can be done, perhaps a celebrated, decorated, photogenic, intelligent, passionate and eloquent leader is needed. Sounds like a job for Adam van Koeverden. He makes it clear he has the lay of the land when it comes to, at least, the generalities of a vision to attempt to make it happen.
"It's not just the media's responsibility, it's a corporate thing, it's a COC thing, it's a school thing . . . it's a sport culture thing. It's a massive cultural change I'm talking about. I think Canada can be a sporting nation, not just a hockey nation."
Until that day comes, if it ever does, Adam van Koeverden may just be doomed to be continually frustrated by the Toronto Maple Leafs, their fans and the people who cover them.
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- Toronto Maple Leafs