WINDSOR, England - It looks like all systems are go for Adam van Koeverden at the Olympics.
The reigning world champion advanced to the final of the K-1 1,000 metres in the Olympic kayaking competition, winning both his morning heat and semifinal.
But Monday was all about going fast enough to make Wednesday's eight-man kayak final and also get a good lane. Van Koeverden dismissed the suggestion that his semifinal win in three minutes 28.209 seconds might be a statement.
"Doesn't matter," he said. "These guys don't respect that. I mean I don't respect somebody who wins in the semi. It's like 'Good job, but the race is on Wednesday.'"
And it should be a doozy, with a who's who of kayak in the field including two-time world champion Max Hoff of Germany, who won the other semifinal in 3:29.294 under sunshine at Eton Dorney.
Other finalists include Sweden's Anders Gustafsson, a van Koeverden training partner who is two-time runner-up at the worlds; Norway's Eirik Veras Larsen, an Olympic silver medallist in 2008 and gold medallist in 2004; Belarus' Aleh Yurenia, a World Cup winner; three-time World Cup champion Rene Poulsen of Denmark; and 2008 Olympic champion Tim Brabants of Britain.
"I'm putting a lot of pressure on myself, which is good," said van Koeverden. "I just want to race fast."
Van Koeverden already has a gold, silver and bronze from the Olympics. He won gold and bronze, in the K-1 500 metres and K-1 1,000 metres, in Athens, and a silver in the K-500 in Beijing where he also finished eighth in the K-1 1,000.
"This feels a lot more like Athens," said longtime coach Scott Oldershaw. "He's relaxed, (in) a better frame of mind. Beijing, a number of things, I guess, led to just a little more stress at that one. Defending is always an issue. Doing the flag-bearing is part of it."
With the 500-metre race having been replaced with a 200-metre sprint here, van Koeverden is just racing in the 1,000.
Despite this being his third Olympics, the 30-year-old from Oakville, Ont., says he still feels nerves.
"I didn't sleep very well last night," he said, adding by way of clarification: "I slept well until like 4 a.m. and then I got up. But nerves are good and pressure's a luxury. This nervous energy's got to fuel me somehow."
Plus when your alarm is set to go off at 6:20, there's not much of a lie-in even if you are sound asleep.
"I was awake when my alarm when off and I hate that," said van Koeverden, who says he is not a morning person.
With the heat and semifinal the same morning, van Koeverden came out firing before taking his foot off the pedal at the end.
"It's hard. Ninety minutes is not enough time to recover between two races," said van Koeverden.
Usually the heat and semifinal are three hours or a day apart. At past Olympics, he just raced once a day — five times over six days for two events. This time he will do three races in three days.
Van Koeverden dominated the opening heat of the day and led by four seconds at the 750-metre mark before easing off the throttle and finishing in 3:28.697. It was the fastest time of the three heats.
"I felt fast and comfortable," he said of his 100-stroke-a-minute effort. "I was just gauging my stroke rate and feeling the wind."
Gustafsson (3:34.419) and Poulsen (3:30.284) won the other heats.
Mark Oldershaw of Burlington, Ont., reached the C-1 1,000-metre canoe final, placing second in his semifinal.
Oldershaw is the fifth member of his family to compete in canoe-kayak at the Olympic Games.
Grandfather Bert Oldershaw finished fifth at the 1948 Games in London and went on to compete at two more Games. Father/coach Scott competed in Los Angeles in 1984, while uncles Dean (Munich, 1972) and Reed (Montreal, 1976) were also Olympians.
Mark is the first to make an Olympic final since his grandfather.
"That's been amazing," he said of the family connections and the Games. "I think our whole family's been enjoying it. Facebook messages and emails and pictures are flying around."
The family history is separate from his personal Olympic challenge, he noted, but it is still a special feeling being part of it. Especially since he has a slew of family members cheering him on.
Mark failed to make the final in Beijing. He placed 10th, blaming nerves, but says he has sorted himself out since.
It took most of the fall after Beijing to get things in proper perspective, he said.
"I just wasn't in the right place, I guess, physically, mentally last time to be ready to do that," he said of his 2008 Games. "And I learned a lot from it. I just didn't take that failure and say 'Oh that sucks.'
"I took it and I learned from it and I realized that every Olympics someone's going to lose, someone's not going to make the final. I just had to take four years to figure out how that wasn't going to me this time."
Unlike van Koeverden, Oldershaw slept right through.
"And whether I win a medal, I just feel like I have done everything I can," he said. "And when you have that feeling, it's easier to sleep and it's a lot less nerves."
Still, he said he got up early and "double-checked everything and repacked my bag three times."
For Oldershaw, just making the final was a monkey off his back.
Father Scott say Mark's Beijing experience rankled — for a time.
"You deal with it and he did. But that's gone now," he said of his son's Beijing disappointment.
While his final Wednesday also includes a stacked field, Mark has beaten them before in World Cups.
"I know I can beat them but I don't have that pressure that they have. I'm not defending anything so I'm just going out there, having a great time, seeing what I can do and hopefully beat all of them."
Ryan Cochrane of Windsor, Ont., and Hugues Fournel of Lachine, Que., finished fifth in the K-2 1,000 semifinal and did not advance. They will race later this week in their K-200 speciality.
"We just wanted to stay as close as possible without wasting too much energy for our 200-metre which is our main event," said Cochrane.
They race their 200-metre heat on Friday.