Olympic rowing gold medalist in 2008 delivers story of failure and success
By Greg Layson
How inspiring is Canadian Olympic gold medalist rower Adam Kreek? Just ask triathlete Simon Whitfield to find out.
After Kreek and his teammates won the men’s eight at the 2008 Beijing Games, Kreek belted out an impassioned rendition of O Canada atop the podium.
Having seen the performance, Whitfield wrote “Sing like Adam Kreek” on the handlebars of his bicycle and repeated “Sing like Kreek” to himself near the end of the race, in which he finished second.
Kreek’s been inspiring people ever since.
Yesterday, the 28-year old — and his Olympic gold, of course — were in Guelph. Kreek told his story of failure and success to 75-plus people, many of them area rowers, at the Holiday Inn.
“It’s especially important in a place like Guelph where rowing just started up in the last 10 years,” said Kreek, who actually raced in Guelph during the 1998 Ontario Summer Games.
Kreek and his teammates finished a disappointing fifth at the 2004 Athens Olympics and Kreek thought his rowing career was over. He actually stepped away from the sport for a year.
But after rehabilitating two herniated discs, he and three other rowers from the 2004 team returned to Beijing to redeem themselves.
“As an athlete you always ask if you’re really going to put the work in and whether or not it’s worth it. Seeing how he pushed through the defeat . . . it was inspiring. It was nice to hear someone else went through it and got past it,” 16-year-old rower and Guelph CVI student Sean Peterson said. “Everyone has the ability to be an Olympian. You just get what you put into it. Adam Kreek has put a lot into it and got the results.”
Kreek is also a three-time world champion and six-time World Cup gold medalist. Now, he says he’s “not sure what’s next” but public, inspiring speaking is certainly a part of his future.
“Everybody has different roles to play in our society. I think it’s important we have role models and people of inspiration to make us believe and hope. If I’m that person so be it,” he said.
“Now that I’ve been successful and so lucky to be from a country that supports its athletes, it’s important for me to give back, help inspire and help get the generation of Olympic athletes rolling.”
What made Kreek so special yesterday was his ability to relate, to have fun.
“He’s most infectious because of how human he is. He’s the guy next door,” said Guelph’s Liam Brennan, who trained with the Canadian men’s eight rowing crew in Victoria, B.C. in 2006.
Kreek mingled with the crowd afterward, posing for photos, including one of a pose-down in which Kreek and five other young rowers flexed their biceps for the camera. He made sure everyone in attendance had a chance to hold, examine and photograph, if they wanted, his gold medal.
“He helped me to understand what it takes to become an Olympic athlete,” said Peterson, who recalled watching Kreek’s gold medal race live in the wee hours of the morning.
“Adam Kreek stood out for us because he was belting out the national anthem. He has a real love for the sport.”