Adam Kreek is one hell of a storyteller and he has one hell of a story.
Some people remember him as a three-time world championship rower and an Olympic gold medalist at the 2008 Beijing Games in the men’s eight. He can add being enshrined in hometown immortality after being on the list of inductees at this year’s London Sports Hall of Fame Ceremony on Nov. 6 at the Western Fair District’s Carousel Room.
Other people will remember Kreek trying to row across the Atlantic Ocean from Senegal to Miami, along with three friends in 2013 before his vessel capsized on day 73, about 650 kilometres from Puerto Rico.
He’s open to talk about it no matter what people remember him for. He has no problem speaking about how he narrowly escaped the cabin as it filled with water after his 29-foot boat flipped over.
He laughs when he talks about the diarrhea you get after a race and your body is producing more lactic acid than it’s used to.
The openness is all part of being an athlete trying to push the boundaries and an even better storyteller.
“Both have their appeals from a storytelling standpoint, they’re just different stories and it depends what kind of story you like,” Kreek said.
Kreek has put down the paddles and these days tours around telling people his story as a full-time speaker.
Regardless of what people want to know about him, he shares in hopes they’ll be inspired to push their own limits. He was even a speaker at the renowned TEDx talks in 2013.
“It’s our responsibility to tell stories of ourselves and of one another, so that we can inspire the best in one in another,” Kreek said.
It may be no surprise he considers himself a “biography nut” and draws inspiration from others. He’s currently listening to the audio book Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption. It’s the true story of Louis Zamperini, a track runner who participated in the 1936 Olympics before enlisting in the Air Force to fight in the Second World War. A doomed flight left him stranded in the Pacific Ocean for 47 days, only to be captured by the Japanese and forced to live in horrible conditions as a POW until the war ended. Years later Zamperini would meet most of his POW guards personally and forgive each of them.
His own and others' journeys, rather than just the brief pinnacle moment, is what excites Kreek the most.
He said when he meets with the seven other Olympic gold teammates there’s rarely a word about the podium-topping race, but instead mostly talk about “something that happened in training.”
“I love people’s history and I love seeing how people’s life has unfolded,” Kreek said. “I’m never going to live the life of anyone else but my own life, but I can learn from their life. I can learn from their mistakes, I can learn from their triumphs and hopefully to find a more fulfilling path in my life.”
You can’t start a story without a beginning.
When you bring up Kreek’s career in rowing he’s quick to include his introduction to the sport at a Western Mustangs sport camp and his Saunders Secondary School coaches Walter Benko and Pete Carson.
Kreek’s induction to the London Sports Hall of Fame is far from his story’s ending. When he talks about the future, he leaves sports at bay and glows when he speaks about his wife and child. Along with his newly minted plaque hung up at Budweiser Gardens as to the London HOF tradition, those are things that will continue on.
“Winning an Olympic gold medal is also very special, it’s also just a moment too. Time passes on and it’s not like a child, it’s this inanimate object,” Kreek said. “It is about the journey leading up to the moment. The moment is what motivates the journey. If it was just about the moment then life would be a very boring thing, it would be very short.”