COC Names van Koeverden Canada’s 2008 Flag Bearer

The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) today announced that Olympic and world champion kayaker Adam van Koeverden has been named Canada’s flag bearer for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. The announcement came as the COC also officially named the 331 athletes to represent Canada as Beijing plays host to the world for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad from August 8-24.

“It’s an incredible honour and privilege to be selected as Canada’s flagbearer for these Olympic Games” said van Koeverden. “China is preparing an awesome Opening Ceremony, which I’m thrilled to lead our team of amazing Canadian athletes into. It’s a great feeling to be representing my sport of Canoe-Kayak, our entire Canadian contingent, and everyone back home in Canada. More than anything else, we hope to make every Canadian proud as they see the Maple Leaf enter the Olympic Stadium in Beijing.”

At his first Olympic appearance four years ago in Athens, the native of Oakville, Ont., was one of Canada’s brightest success stories. First he raced to a bronze medal in the K-1 1,000 metres. A day later in the K-1 500-metre sprint, van Koeverden won gold. In so doing, he became the country’s first double medallist since sprinter Donovan Bailey and cyclist Clara Hughes earned two medals each in 1996 in Atlanta. For this, he was named flag bearer at the Closing Ceremony and later won the Lou Marsh Award as Canada’s Male Athlete of the Year.

The sprint kayaker has dominated the World Cup circuit over the past four years, winning the overall title each year from 2004 through 2007. He has won 21 World Cup gold medals, including five this year. He is also a 44-time Canadian champion. Off the water, van Koeverden is an athlete ambassador for the humanitarian group Right to Play, a group that comes to the aid of disadvantaged youth with sport and activity.

Van Koeverden will lead the Canadian Olympic Team into the brand new Beijing National Stadium, nicknamed the Bird’s Nest (owing to its unique design) for the 2008 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony on August 8th. The 331 Canadian athletes represent a significant increase over the 265 who competed in Athens four years ago. This growth is due in part to an increase in team sports that qualified for these Summer Games. In 2004 Canada qualified its men’s baseball, women’s water polo and women’s softball squads. This summer, those same three are joined by men’s field hockey and women’s soccer.

Other highlights of the 2008 Canadian Olympic Team are the participation of nine athletes who reached the podium in Athens back to either defend their medals or compete in a different event. They are:

Gold medallists Adam van Koeverden (kayak, K-1 500m, Oakville Ont.) and Kyle Shewfelt (artistic gymnastics, floor, Calgary).

Silver medallists Alexandre Despatie (diving, 3m springboard, Montreal), Marie-Hélène Prémont (cycling, cross-country, Quebec City), Karen Cockburn (gymnastics, trampoline, Toronto), Tonya Verbeek (wrestling, women’s 55kg, St. Catharines, Ont.) and Jake Wetzel (rowing, coxless four in 2004, now a member of the men’s eight, Saskatoon).

Bronze medallists Emilie Heymans (diving, 10m synchro, now 10m platform, St. Lambert, Que.), Blythe Hartley (diving, 10m synchro, now 3m springboard, North Vancouver) and Adam van Koeverden (K-1, 1,000m).

The 2008 Canadian Olympic Team also boasts several athletes with four or more Olympic Games to their name. This list is led by long-time equestrian standout Ian Millar (Perth, Ont.), who in Beijing will mark his world record-tying 9th Olympic Games with Austrian sailor Hubert Raudaschl. Rower Lesley Thompson-Willie, of London, Ont., will compete in her 6th Olympic Games and has four Olympic medals to her credit (one gold, two silver, one bronze). Edmonton native trap shooter Susan Nattrass will compete in her 6th Olympic Games, dating back to 1976. Race walker Dr. Tim Berrett of Edmonton and slalom kayaker David Ford, of Edmonton, will compete in their 5th Games. Three other athletes will mark their 4th Olympic appearance: Judoka Keith Morgan of Calgary, tennis star and Olympic gold medallist Daniel Nestor and 1984 gold medallist in fencing for China, Jujie Luan.

“With just two weeks to go before the Opening Ceremony of the 2008 Olympic Games, I know that excitement is building,” said Canada’s Chef de Mission Sylvie Bernier. “Our Canadian athletes have trained for years for these upcoming 16 days of Olympic competition – from coast to coast and around the world. Our team of coaches, mission staff and support personnel will be behind them every step of the way, as will the rest of Canada.”

“We are very proud to have Adam van Koeverden carrying Canada’s flag into the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games,“ said COC president Michael Chambers, himself a former competitive paddler. “Adam typifies the Canadian Olympic Committee’s passion for sport excellence and integrity, and represents Canada with pride on every occasion.”

Adam van Koeverden was selected as Canada’s flag bearer by a selection committee comprising Bernier, Giles, two summer athletes chosen by the COC Athletes’ Council Executive Committee and a coach appointed by the coaches’ representative on the COC Executive Committee. Previous recent Olympic Games flag bearers include Nicholas Gill (2004, judo), Caroline Brunet (2000, kayak), Charmaine Crooks (1996, athletics), Michael Smith (1992, athletics), Carolyn Waldo (1988, synchronized swimming) and Alex Baumann (1984, swimming).