CANOEING: Treading water? Not our Ed
ED McKeever cemented his place at the top of the canoeing world and in the hearts of the British public by storming to Olympic gold medal in the K1 200m final at London 2012.
In 2010 he had already achieved the mantles of world and European champion but on August 11, the Bradford on Avon kayak king ruthlessly powered to his ultimate goal by claiming gold in the K1 200m.
That coveted medal was the reward for years of dedication and hard work both on and off the water from McKeever, so where does the Team GB hero keep his precious 400g of Olympic folklore?
Is it permanently hung around his neck? Does it have pride of place in his Berkshire home? Did it serve as the ultimate Christmas tree decoration last winter?
“It’s in its box, tucked away in a drawer at home,” said McKeever.
Despite his pride at his show-stopping London 2012 achievement, the modest and softly-spoken McKeever is keen to put his Olympic success story behind him and switch his focus to the next chapter in his glittering career.
“People always want to see the medal and that’s fine but that’s where I like to keep it because I want to think about what’s coming up in the future.
“In Rio (2016), I’ll be 32 and it would be fantastic to defend my title.
“There are always ways that you can improve and I know that if I’m going to do that, I need to be even better than I am now. “There are so many other things that I can still do.
“I’m going to be competing in two World Cup races in May (in Szeged, Hungary and Racice, Czech Republic), the European Championships (in Montemor-o-Velho, Portugal) in June and the World Championships (in Duisberg, Germany) in August.
“I’ve never had the world record either.
“I don’t need any motivation to keep going at all and I’m completely confident that I can carry on being successful.”
McKeever is Bradford’s golden boy and a gold-painted postbox, commemorative stamps and even a footbridge named in his honour became the norm in his home town following last summer’s Games.
He even appeared on A Question of Sport, but he was yearning for a return to the hard slog of full-time training and finally scratched that itch when he hit the water in Cuba at his first training camp of the year earlier this month.
“I managed to get into training really quickly – it was kind of surprising how well my body adjusted to it after a break and maybe having to lift up my medal everywhere has been good for me,” said McKeever, who was this week continuing his training in Seville.
“It was brilliant. I know that I’m quite privileged to lead the lifestyle that I do, going away on training camps and seeing the world.
“Ultimately, when you go away it’s a lot of hard work but I still enjoy it and the love of the sport is what’s kept me doing it for so long.
“I’ve always put a lot more pressure on myself than anyone else ever could.
While the romance of winning Olympic gold last August puts up a strong challenge for the greatest day of McKeever’s life, it received strong competition a month later as he married his finacee Anya Kuczha in Beaconsfield.
The newlyweds jetted off to the Caribbean just before Christmas for a well-deserved honeymoon break, before McKeever gets ready to make even bigger waves in 2013.
“I’ve taken a good break after the Games and I’m back this year, ready to give it a go and see what I can do,’’ he said.