“Really? You’re going to Whistler? Why?”
It’s a question that Adam van Koeverden and Mark Oldershaw are getting used to hearing around this time of year.
The Olympic medallists and their teammates with Canada’s national canoe and kayak team were back in the resort this month for a two-week training camp that’s become an annual tradition. It’s also become an example of how Olympic legacy benefits in Whistler aren’t being realized exclusively by winter-sport athletes.
“We talk about the legacy that the Olympics can provide athletes with, and this is exactly it. It’s this facility right here that we’re standing in,” van Koeverden said from the second level of the High Performance Centre inside the Whistler Athletes’ Centre last Thursday (Jan. 12).
“We’d be crazy not to come here and use it.”
The wall across from the balcony where canoe team members worked out last Thursday is emblazoned with logos and artwork of the 2010 Games, which Oldershaw said is inspiring.
“It seems like a corny thing, but it’s true. You’re training where Olympians train,” said the bronze medallist in C1 1,000 m from London.
This is the third winter the paddlers have made a winter trip to Whistler for training. Much of their time is spent cross-country skiing out at Whistler Olympic Park, which is a great aerobic workout for the athletes before they get back into boats.
“It’s awesome here. It’s actually one of the best training camps I’ve ever done,” said Oldershaw. “You can’t paddle all year round. Personally, I think people go to warm training camps too much — I think it wears them down and our sport can be pretty tough on the body. Any time you can change it up, not only physically but mentally, it’s a great break and a new challenge.”
Van Koeverden earned silver in the men’s K1 1,000 m during the London Games, giving him four career medals from three Olympic appearances. An athlete representative on the Canadian Olympic Committee’s board of directors, van Koeverden recalled how he went to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., early in his career and saw American athletes from different sports training together and sharing resources.
Now, he’s pleased that the Vancouver Games have left behind a similar facility primarily for Canadians, and to have venue operators Whistler Sport Legacies so eager to help out with the team’s needs.
“We get a kick out of training in this gym because the atmosphere and environment is excellent,” he said. “I was just talking to a guy downstairs who’s on the para-snowboard team and wants to try out for the para-kayak team, and it’s that kind of cross-fertilization that I don’t think Canada’s ever necessarily capitalized on to the same degree as we are now.
“We see the value in embracing the legacy, embracing the facilities that are here and being part of their development, because facilities, just like athletes, have to develop in order to be effective.”
It’s been a busy few months for van Koeverden and Oldershaw since they hit the podium in London, and the Whistler camp was a chance for them to start looking ahead to the 2013 season.
“The fall was a bit of vacation, a bit of down time to celebrate and take a break,” said Oldershaw. “This camp has been my introduction back into training, so it’s been fun but it’s also been pretty tough. My body’s definitely feeling it, but it’s a good feeling, getting back into it.”
The last time van Koeverden was in town, he was crooning on stage with Simon Whitfield and Jim Cuddy after finishing the RBC GranFondo Whistler. Since London, he’s climbed Mount Kilimanjaro — a “life-changing” experience — during a trip to Africa with Right to Play, and has been busy taking advantage of opportunities that he’d normally have to say no to.
The 2013 International Canoe Federation (ICF) World Championships are in Duisburg, Germany, in August. The last time they were held there, van Koeverden won gold in the K1 500 m and silver in the 1,000 m. He is still the reigning 1,000 m world champ heading into Duisburg.
But the 30-year-old said he might spend part of 2013 focusing on the 5,000 m — not an Olympic distance — or even competing at the ICF Marathon World Championships, an open-water event.
“I’m kind of leaving everything up in the air,” he said. “I want to see how I feel when I get back on the water because as my fall schedule may have implied … I didn’t do very much kayaking.”