Ed McKeever MBE, the fastest man on water at the London 2012 Olympic Games announced his retirement from the sport of canoe sprint today, after an impressive career spanning a 17 year period that saw him regularly on the podium at World and European Championships and in the World Cup Series.
The 33 year-old from Bradford-on-Avon, often referred to as the ‘Usain Bolt of the water’, claimed the first ever Olympic gold in the men’s single kayak over 200m at Dorney Lake, when the shorter sprint distance was first added to the programme in London. In doing so, he won Team GB’s 26th gold medal of the Games.
“Competing and winning a gold medal at a home Olympic Games in front of thousands of British fans is something that will live with me for the rest of my life”, said McKeever. “Very few people get that opportunity so I am extremely grateful for all the support”.
The memory that stands out for me was standing on top of the podium and singing along with the national anthem, especially knowing that my friends and family were there watching.– Ed McKeever MBE
He topped off the Olympic celebrations with his marriage a month later to PE teacher Anya Kuczaj and was then awarded an MBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours list.
World and European champion in 2010 and winner of five World Cup Series gold medals, Ed McKeever remained the man to beat for much of the next Olympic cycle.
However despite his best efforts to qualify for Rio 2016 and the opportunity to defend his title, McKeever just missed out, in an event that is decided by mere 100ths of a second. Such was strength of the GB 200m programme, he was succeeded as Olympic Champion in the K1 200m event by teammate and training partner Liam Heath, who also won silver in the K2 200m with Jon Schofield.
The trio of McKeever, Heath and Schofield were a formidable training group led by their Russian coach Alex Nikonorov for a hugely successful seven year period, delivering two gold, a silver and a bronze medal at the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games, not to mention the numerous World, European and World Cup medals and Ed puts much of this down to their shared goals and focused training regime.
“We had similar goals and knew how to work together as a team, with a healthy and competitive training environment, which really got the best out of each other”, he explained.
In his formative years Ed paddled at Bradford-on-Avon Canoe Club and received outstanding support from the club throughout his junior career and from coach, Kevin Bowerbank in particular.
Throughout his senior international career Ed, a graduate of Kingston University in 2008 with a degree in Accountancy and Finance, continued to study for his ACCA accountancy exams, showing the same focus and steely determination that was so apparent on the water. With his qualifications now completed and his international paddling career over, he plans to pick up and pursue a career in financial services and is looking for the right opportunity.
Another exciting challenge for Ed comes in the form of a small bundle of joy, his four week old son Peter and he claims he is taking to fatherhood ‘like a duck to water’. It also explains his decision to finally hang up his paddle saying: “Having a son four weeks ago means that I want to spend some time at home and realistically you can’t also live the life of a full time athlete which is inherently quite a selfish one and doesn’t really fit with the life of a parent. I want to spend some time with my family and this has been a strong driver for my retirement. Being a dad is going well and I am really enjoying it.
I am looking at the best way to stay involved with canoeing. It is something I have a passion for and I have really enjoyed it throughout my life, so I am certainly keen to continue in some way.– Ed McKeever MBE
Reflecting on Ed’s paddling career, John Anderson MBE, British Canoeing Performance Director said: “Ed has been the consummate professional throughout his time on the British Canoeing international programme and he has continually delivered medals at the highest level. It was a proud moment for all those that witnessed Ed winning gold at London 2012, the culmination of years of training and dedication and it is undoubtedly the highlight of a very successful paddling career.
Many congratulations to Ed and Anya on the birth of son Peter and I wish them all the very best. I have no doubt that with his strong focus, commitment and drive, Ed will be equally successful in his future career.– John Anderson MBE