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Default Star kayaker Adam van Koeverden to carry flag in Beijing for Canada

Adam van Koeverden to carry Canadian flag in Beijing


MONTREAL - He's by no means a superstitious guy, so star
Canadian kayaker Adam van Koeverden doesn't believe in
the so-called "flag-bearer jinx" that supposedly casts a
dark cloud over the athlete chosen to lead his country
into the Olympic Games.

"Alex Baumann carried the flag in 1984 and he won two
golds, so I can deal with that jinx," van Koeverden said
Wednesday during a news conference to announce he would
be Canada's flag-bearer for the Beijing Olympics.

Baumann, the star swimmer, was Canada's flag-bearer for
the '84 Games in Los Angeles where he won gold in both
the 200-and 400-metre individual medley events.

It will be the second time that van Koeverden has been a
Canadian flag-bearer. The 26-year-old native of Oakville,
Ont., also carried the Maple Leaf at the closing ceremony
for the 2004 Athens Olympics where he won gold and bronze
medals in fla****er kayaking.

Opinion on the so-called flag-bearer curse is decidedly

Figure skater Brian Orser won silver in Calgary in 1988
and speedskater Gaetan Boucher won three medals four
years earlier in Sarajevo after carrying the Canadian
flag at the opening ceremonies.

But Jean-Luc Brassard, heavily favoured in freestyle
skiing moguls at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano,
Japan, failed to win a medal and blamed the flag-bearer
role for his loss. Figure skater Kurt Browning finished
fifth after carrying the flag at the Lillehammer Games in
Norway in 1994, and Michael Smith also did not win a
medal at the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona.

In addition to the flag, van Koeverden is also carrying a
heavy burden as a top Canadian medal hopeful. The
pressure may be even greater considering that many of
Canada's top athletes are coming off injuries or not
participating at all.

But van Koeverden doesn't have any issue with carrying
the flag - as long as he puts his best foot forward. The
outspoken paddler is more concerned with not tripping as
he enters the Beijing National Stadium, avoiding a repeat
of the 2004 opening ceremonies.

"In 2004 when I entered the stadium, I tripped, so I
think the main thing I'll be thinking about is
left-right, left-right to keep my feet up and not
falling," van Koeverden said via satellite from his local
canoe club in Oakville, Ont. "I'm not worried about being
emotional about carrying the flag, I've done it before in
Athens at the closing ceremonies so I know what to
expect, and I can't see any negative aspect to carrying
the flag at the opening ceremonies."

The opening ceremonies will be held Aug. 8 at the Beijing
National Stadium.

"I'm more than honoured and privileged. It fills me with
so much pride to (carry the flag)," said van Koeverden.
"I can't wait."

Judoka Nicolas Gill carried the Canadian flag at the
opening ceremonies at the 2004 Summer Games in Athens.
Hockey player Danielle Goyette was the Canadian
flag-bearer at the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy.

Others who were considered candidates to carry it this
time included equestrian veteran Ian Millar, diver
Alexandre Despatie, cyclist Marie-Helene Premont, gymnast
Karen Cockburn and triathlete Simon Whitfield.

"I don't see it so much as leading but as representing,"
van Koeverden said of the responsibility. "We're all
marching in together. Everybody's a leader."

But timing is often an issue for some athletes. Gymnast
Kyle Shewfelt, who won gold in Athens, had already said
he wouldn't be available since he competes the next day.

Van Koeverden's schedule works well with the flag duties
since he won't take the water until the second week of
the Games.

Also Wednesday, the Canadian Olympic Committee also
unveiled the team that will compete in Beijing.

Some 331 athletes will represent Canada compared to 265
who competed at Athens.

The COC says the addition of the men's field hockey and
women's soccer teams have contributed to the increase,
and despite a number of medal hopefuls recovering from
injuries the goal remains high for Beijing.

Canada won 12 medals in Athens and finished 19th overall.
Sylvie Bernier, Canada's chef de mission, is eyeing a
top-16 finish in Beijing.

"We know we have a very ambitious goal of top 16 in
Beijing and we also know it will be very hard, but I have
total faith in the talent and mostly the dedication of
our athletes," Bernier said.

With the idea of supporting the goal of producing podium
performances beyond Beijing, the COC is hoping for a
top-12 finish in London in 2012, says COC president
Michael Chambers.

"That's the focus of all of our 331 athletes marching
into the stadium - they're not going to Beijing to see
Beijing, they're going to Beijing to do all they possibly
can with every effort they have inside themselves, body
and soul, to get on the podium," Chambers said.

"Some will, some won't but every one will have that as
their focus in Beijing."

The COC also downplayed questions from French-language
media assembled in Montreal about van Koeverden's lack of
French, although a fellow kayaker in Montreal chimed in
that van Koeverden could speak the language.

"The language really was not an issue at all," said
Bernier, a former Olympic gold medallist in diving. "For
us, we were just choosing the one who will be an
inspiration for the Canadian team."

Van Koeverden downplays any leadership role he may have
on the Canadian squad and says the best advice he can
offer to fellow Canadian athletes is not to be afraid to
voice their thoughts on performance - that there's
nothing wrong with saying they want to win, a seemingly
strong statement by Canadian standards.

"It's kind of weird because I've never said winning is
the only thing or the most important thing, I've always
just said winning is the point in a competition," van
Koeverden said. "I don't think (Canadian athletes) really
need advice from me, but I just say don't be afraid to
speak your mind and say what you feel because those
comments you make will reverberate back to you and set
the tone for your Olympics."

Van Koeverden has been dominant so far this season,
winning five of six K-1 - or men's singles - World Cup
races. At a World Cup in Poznan, Poland last month, he
paddled to a world record in the 500 metres of one minute
35.630, becoming the first to dip under the 1:36 barrier.

Van Koeverden flew into the Athens Games under the radar
as no one was touting him as a gold-medal favourite. But
he went on to win the Olympic crown in the K-1 500 metres
and bronze in the 1,000 metres.

He will lead a strong canoe/kayak team that will race in
all 12 Olympic fla****er events for the first time in 20
years and could bring home several medals.

His toughest challenge at the Shunyi Olympic
Rowing-Canoeing Park in Beijing should come from Tim
Brabants of Britain and Norway's Eirik Veraas Larsen.
Former rival Nathan Baggeley, who won a pair of silver
medals in Athens, won't be in Beijing - the Australian is
in jail on drug charges.

"All I've ever said is I can produce my best race
possible and more often than not, my best race is worth a
medal," van Koeverden said. "So my expectations are

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