• Student accountant going for gold

Ed McKeever targets Olympic glory in K1 kayak single sprint race

This feature is sponsored by ACCA

TSR caught up with Ed McKeever, ahead of his gold-medal-winning Olympic performance.

Ed McKeever is having a busy year. But he's not thinking about the accountancy exams he's due to sit in December. He hasn't even got his September wedding to his fiancé, Anya, on his mind. For the next week, ACCA student Ed is focused on just one thing: winning gold for Team GB in the 2012 Olympics.

Dubbed 'Usain Bolt on water' Ed, 28, competes in the 200m kayak sprint, an explosive event that sees competitors tear up 200 metres of flat water in little more than 30 seconds.

Watch the BBC's coverage of Ed McKeever powering to Olympic gold

As his nickname suggests, he goes into the Olympic competition as one of the favourites to win. In 2010, Ed was both World and European champion and he took silver and bronze, respectively, in those competitions in 2011.

Among his rivals is the man who Ed believes is likely to present the sternest challenge. Polish kayaker Piotr Siemionowsi claimed Ed's World champion title at the World Sprint Championships in 2011, and the athletes making up the rest of the field are sure to be similarly tough.

"Competition generally does step up in an Olympic year – it’s going to be a lot harder," says Ed. "On any given day, there are four or five guys who can stand on the podium – it’s about being in the best shape you can possibly be on the day."

Non-stop schedule
Training for the event has been unrelenting. "I’m up at 6.15am to take the dog for a quick walk, have breakfast, then I’m out on the water training by 8am," Ed says.

That first session lasts for two hours, quickly followed by another, either back in the water or in the gym. Following a short break for lunch, Ed is back at it at 3pm and 5pm, finishing for the day at 7pm. That routine is his life for six days of every week, with Sunday a rest day.

It's a non-stop schedule that means Ed has had to temporarily step back from his ACCA studies at Kingston University. But, once his sporting career comes to an end, his ultimate goal is to work as an ACCA qualified accountant.

"After finishing school I had quite solid results in maths and business. I wanted something that could get me a job," he says. "ACCA seemed like something that would complement my strengths."

"Some people compete in canoeing up until their late thirties. I’m not sure I fancy doing it for that long – I think I’ll be ready to sit at a desk by then. Accountancy will be a whole new challenge."

However, he's not quite ready to pack away his paddle just yet. "I am really enjoying my canoeing at the moment. At the age of 28, it isn’t unrealistic for me to have another four-year Olympic cycle in me, so I guess I’ll have to wait and see how I feel after the Games are done."

Here's hoping he'll be making that decision with a gold medal safely won.

The K1 (kayak single) 200m race heats and semi-finals take place on Friday 10 August. The final will be on Saturday 11 August.

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