Roots ambassador and world champion kayaker Adam van Koeverden goes for gold next month for Canada at the Summer Olympics in Beijing

By Robert Sarner, The Source, July 2008

Roots has long had a knack for recognizing and supporting emerging Canadian talent, especially in the world of sports and entertainment. It’s a natural match given the culture of the company and the interests of Roots Co-Founders Michael Budman and Don Green. Both have always been active in sports and highly interested in the creative fields including the arts and entertainment.

As such, it’s not surprising that over the past four years Roots has nurtured such a strong relationship with one of Canada’s top young athletes, Adam van Koeverden. In recent weeks, he has appeared at live events for Roots and had a starring role in newspaper ads and posters promoting both the Canada Collection and the Confederation Collection.

His main focus this summer, however, is on what he does best — representing Canada triumphantly in international kayaking competitions. Next month in Beijing, Adam will be one of the country’s great hopes for a gold medal at the Summer Olympics. At the previous games in Athens in 2004, he captured gold and bronze medals in the K-1 500m and K-1 1000m kayaking competitions.

Since then, he’s continued his winning ways, racking up numerous victories in World Cup races and today he is arguably the best in international paddling. This summer alone, he’s won five such gold medals (the most recent in Europe in late June) to raise his career total to 21. No Canadian in any sport has had more success than Adam heading toward the August 8- 24 Games in Beijing.

Known sometimes as the ‘Rocket Man’ for his prowess in a kayak, Adam set a world record last month in the men’s K-1 500 meters at a regatta in Poland. With blazing speed, he crossed the finish line with a time of one minute, 35.63 seconds, becoming the first kayaker to ever break the 1:36 mark, a major feat in his sport.

Adam has been involved with Roots since 2004 when the company approached him shortly after the Athens Olympics. In addition to his athletic talents, he has demonstrated a keen understanding of the Roots style and culture. Few people look better in the beaver brand than Adam. As such, he has taken part in numerous photo-shoots in different venues ranging from Ontario’s Algonquin Park to Jamaica, appearing in ads, posters, brochures, and website images.

Over the years, he has made countless appearances on behalf of Roots, from in-store Canada Day events to conducting kayaking demonstrations at summer camps to hosting a fashion show to appearing at a media conference in support of a special initiative involving Roots and Canadian Blood Services.

“Roots is an exceedingly easy and comfortable company to be involved with,” says Adam, 26. “It’s more like being part of a family than anything else. With its commitment to the environment and community initiatives, in addition to its great style, being part of Roots has always been an incredible pleasure for me.”

For all his international triumphs and media acclaim, Adam remains incredibly down to earth. Highly personable with a strong social consciousness, he is an excellent ambassador for Roots, reflecting the values of the brand.

“Roots is a lot more than a clothing company or a sponsor for me,” says Adam, who grew up in Oakville, Ontario and today lives in nearby Burlington. “It is a family, even a way of life. Shopping at Roots gives you the feeling that you’re in a store with a real sense of Canadian national pride. Canada Day at a Roots store is such a huge event. It fills me with the same feelings of excitement and devotion that racing for Canada does.”

Last year, Adam graduated from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario with a degree in kinesiology and was class valedictorian. When not training or competing, he is actively involved in the non-profit organization Right To Play (also supported by Roots) that helps improve the lives of disadvantaged children in Third World countries by involving them in sports. Last fall, he went to Liberia and worked with children there as part of his volunteer involvement with Right To Play.

Adam first started paddling when he was 12 when his mother took him to a local canoe club in Oakville and he was racing a year later. By the time he was 17, he had won a bronze medal in the K-1 1000m at the 1999 Junior World Championships.

One of his favourite places to paddle is in Ontario’s Algonquin Park, which he discovered several years ago thanks to his involvement with Roots. Recently, for the third year in a row, at the initiative of Roots, he led kayaking demonstrations at several summer camps in the Park to help promote the sport in particular and to encourage young people to be physically active in general.

“Whenever possible, I like to take my kayak to Algonquin Park for a couple days at a time and paddle on the lakes up there,” says Adam. “Roots introduced my friends and I to the Park in 2004, and I’ve been totally hooked ever since. It’s an awesome way to re-connect with the roots of my sport and with nature at its best. The only distractions while training up there are the call of the loon and maybe an occasional canoe tripper paddling past with a friendly wave. It’s a very calming environment, and such a great place to paddle.”

Adam will be leaving for China on August 5, almost two weeks before his first race there. Until then, much of his time will be spent in intense training and conditioning.

Like other Canadians, everyone at Roots is hoping Adam proves triumphant in Beijing. It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

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