Kreek is fine without a paddle

Tuesday April, 19th, 2011

By CHRIS CAMERON – For The Daily Gleaner

FREDERICTON – After overcoming a heartbreaking loss in rowing at the 2004 Olympics in rowing, Adam Kreek overcame the disappointment to win an Olympic gold medal in 2008. Now he travels around North America sharing the story of how he overcame and pushed forward.

His philosophy is “Reflect. Learn. Grow. Let it go.”

Speaking to students at Leo Hayes High School Monday, Kreek shared his trials in preparation for the 2004 Olympics, but more importantly how he was able force himself to put in the effort again after coming up short in Athens.

“We learned some very valuable lessons as athletes, but more as humans competing and pushing ourselves to the limit,” said Kreek. “I felt like I didn’t want those lessons to go to waste. People don’t have to go to the Olympics for eight years to learn what I teach. I can hit the high points in a talk.”

“I’m also a big believer that athletics and sport is the glue that holds our country together and our society together, so I wanted to illustrate how athletics can be used to give great example of how to push through obstacles in life.”

He said the reason he wanted to give back in this way was because when he started when a parent volunteered their time and started the rowing program at his high school.

“That’s how so many things happen,” he said. “It is through volunteers and the spirit of giving back. That’s why I love speaking and sharing what I have. It’s my way of giving back.”

Public speaking did not begin for Kreek after the Olympic gold medal. Rather, he started early in his career after his first world championships.

From left FRC members, Kevin Lunn, Steve Watson, Olympian Adam Kreek and Jen Fitzpatrick, president of Rowing New Brunswick and FRC member.

“After I went to my first world championships I was looking for something else to do when I was training,” said Kreek. “I just needed something outside of sport that was challenging and interesting. There was a small group that had just started in B.C. called the Esteem Team.” Representatives from the organization went into the schools to do talks, much as Kreek did at Leo Hayes yesterday.

“I sent them an e-mail and told them I wanted to be involved in their program. I went and talked to the director and they train you a bit on doing speeches. I went to a bunch of elementary schools and shared a bunch of stories about sport and lessons in life. Then I found I liked it (public speaking).”

Although the four-time world champion could be training for the 2012 Olympics in London, Kreek said it was a simple decision to move on from rowing.

“You constantly re-evaluate after every Olympics,” he said. “I thought I was done after the first one because it was so much work. After the second Olympics, when I did go back, I knew it was going to be my last one.”

“You can only be an athlete so long. Surprisingly it wasn’t a tough decision at the time because I was ready and I had thought about it.”

Now a husband with an eight month old daughter, Kreek is a member of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers, something he never thought would happen to him.

“I never really pictured myself as going down this route of travelling around and giving speeches, but now I do it professionally,” he said. “I’ve just got a big heart for schools and kids because this type of message (getting over failures and disappointments) is really important for the younger generation.”

Kreek also has written a book, “Beyond Success”, which will be released later this year. He wrote it after the Olympic victory to personally reflect, but felt his story could be used to educate others.

“It was a sense of catharsis really that I was seeking post Olympics because I had put out all this effort,” he said. “When you’re training, it’s like you’re a monk in a monastery. Eat, sleep and row is all you do. You kind of go deeper into your soul to figure out why you’re doing it and how you get over those mental blocks along the way.”

Kreek’s next major challenge is rowing across the Atlantic Ocean in December, starting in Liberia and ending in Venezuela. Joining Jordan Hanssen, Greg Spooner and Rick Tarbill, this trek across the ocean is in support of Right to Play.

“Since I retired I’ve just been rowing for fun,” said Kreek. “I ran into a guy and he said he had rowed across the Atlantic and I said I was an Olympic gold medalist and we were the best of friends. This will be tough, but I’m looking to the new and exciting challenge.”

The Daily Gleaner, CanadaEast.com