At 50, Ford ready for one more rapid ride

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - TORONTO —

In nearly three decades as Canada’s finest white­wa­ter kayaker, David Ford has shat­tered stereo­types about age and high per­for­mance.

The five-time Olympian re­cently earned a spot on the Cana­dian team for this sum­mer’s World Cup tour and the world cham­pi­onships. It’s a fi­nal chance to nav­i­gate the river in the red-and-white Maple Leaf, and an op­por­tu­nity to bid the sport a fi­nal farewell. And it comes both af­ter a can­cer di­ag­no­sis, and a cou­ple of months af­ter Ford turned 50.

“We’re push­ing that bound­ary and fig­ur­ing out, where is the limit of hu­man po­ten­tial?” Ford said. “And for me to be on a team where we have a young 18-year-old ju­nior do­ing re­ally well (Keenan Simp­son), and then we’ve got Michael Tayler (25) who went to the last cou­ple of Olympics do­ing re­ally well. And then we have a 50-year-old who’s com­pet­ing in his fifth dif­fer­ent decade of his life. And com­pet­ing well. I think it’s cool.”

Ford had stepped away from com­pet­ing af­ter miss­ing out on the Rio Olympic team. He’d been di­ag­nosed with skin can­cer which in­volved his thy­roid and the treat­ment had sapped his en­ergy by the time he stepped into his boat at the Olympic tri­als.

But when he learned this year’s tri­als for the world cham­pi­onships were prac­ti­cally in his back­yard in Can­more, Alta., he fig­ured he’d give it one more shot.

He won one race and was sec­ond in the other to clinch his spot on the na­tional team.

Ford al­most didn’t get to write this fi­nal chap­ter. Be­cause he no longer re­ceives any sport fund­ing, Ford planned to use his Aero­plan re­ward miles — more than 170,000 he’d ac­cu­mu­lated over the years — for his flights. But when he logged onto his ac­count, they’d all been deleted due to 12 months of in­ac­tiv­ity.

Aero­plan has a 12-month ex­piry pol­icy, mean­ing the user will lose their miles if there is no ac­cu­mu­la­tion or re­demp­tion ac­tiv­ity over that pe­riod.

Aero­plan re­in­stated Ford’s miles af­ter a re­quest for com­ment from The Cana­dian Press. An Aero­plan spokesper­son ac­knowl­edged he hadn’t been no­ti­fied his miles were about to ex­pire be­cause of an is­sue on their end in up­dat­ing his ad­dress.

Ford will open the World Cup sea­son June 24-25 in Augs­burg, Ger­many, where he made his na­tional team de­but and later won a sil­ver medal at the 2003 world cham­pi­onships.

“It means a lot to me, that river,” Ford said.

Ford won world gold in 1999, and his best Olympic fin­ish was fourth in 2004 in Athens.

He fin­ished sixth four years later in Bei­jing, but missed the 2012 Lon­don Olympics due to a rup­tured el­bow ten­don. He’s also won more than a dozen World Cup medals.

Ford will race one fi­nal time at the world cham­pi­onships in Pau, France, with his wife and their three-year-old son Cooper in at­ten­dance.

At 50, he’s re­al­is­tic that gold isn’t in the cards.

But he’s as phys­i­cally strong as he’s ever been in his ca­reer, and can still give many of the young pad­dlers a run for their money.

Then he’ll hang up his prover­bial pad­dle hop­ing his never-too-old mes­sage has res­onated with many Cana­di­ans.

“The big thing to me is not lis­ten­ing to ev­ery­body else, be­cause there’s so many mis­con­cep­tions and stereo­types about age,” Ford said.

“The key has been to just not stop mov­ing. There’s so much sports sci­ence out there now ... that a 50-yearold or a 60-year-old can go to the gym and start mov­ing and start build­ing back what they’ve lost all those years in the of­fice and do­ing other things.”

CANA­DIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO

In nearly three decades as Canada’s finest white­wa­ter kayaker, David Ford has rewrit­ten our be­liefs around age and high per­for­mance. LORI EWING

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