He won gold for Canada at the 2008 Summer Olympics.
Perhaps just as famously, he was part of a four-man crew that attempted to row across the Atlantic Ocean and had to be rescued after a frightening mishap in the Bermuda Triangle.
He's also an expert in high performance athletics who believes in the power of sport to change lives. He's Adam Kreek, and he's coming to Prince George to offer up stories and words of wisdom for all who are interested in listening.
Kreek, a 32-year-old from Victoria, will speak at UNBC's Weldwood Theatre on Thursday from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The event is free of charge and suitable for all ages.
"I'll be telling a lot of stories about my Olympic experience, having gone to the Olympics a couple of times in Athens and Beijing and rowing in the men's eight, sharing a little bit of my life story, as well as sharing a bit about the most recent adventure where I rowed across the Atlantic Ocean," Kreek said from his hometown earlier this week.
"Seventy-three days into our row, we got hit by some funky water in the Bermuda Triangle and our boat capsized so we had to call in a massive rescue operation. We had to be plucked out of the water. It was a scary moment and the media really picked up on our adventure and the disaster at the end of the day. People out there who were listening along on the radio or reading in the papers could be interested in hearing more of the story."
Earlier Thursday, Kreek will be the keynote speaker at a Sustainability and Legacy Summit, being hosted by the 2015 Canada Winter Games group (see other story).
Kreek, born in London, Ont., was a competitive rower for 13 years. In the men's eight, he was a crew member for Canadian teams that claimed world championship titles in 2002, 2003 and 2007. Canada was a favourite for gold at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens but finished a disappointing fifth. At the Beijing Games, however, Kreek and his motivated mates proved unstoppable and stroked to gold ahead of Great Britain and the United States.
And yes, Kreek's medal will accompany him to Prince George and will be front and centre during Thursday's talk.
"People will get a chance to look at it and hold it and take a picture of it," Kreek said. "There are fewer than 300 Olympic gold medals from the Summer Games that have ever been won by Canadians, and over the history of the Olympics there have probably only been about 5,000 gold medals awarded so that's not a whole lot when you think of the billions of people who have passed [through the Olympics] over the last 100-odd years."
Kreek said becoming an Olympic champion was "an absolute thrill." During the medal ceremony, his joyful singing of O Canada made him the talk of the Games.
Kreek retired from competition after the 2008 Olympics. To avoid falling into the trap of complacency, he wanted to continue to set big goals for himself. So, when the idea of rowing across the Atlantic was presented to him by Seattle's Jordan Hanssen some eight months after the Games, he was intrigued.
After almost four years of meticulous preparation, Kreek, Hanssen and fellow crew members Markus Pukonen and Pat Fleming launched from the West African coast city of Dakar in late January of this year. They were bound for Miami but, aboard their high-tech, specially-designed craft, fell about 1,500 kilometres short of their destination.
On April 6, their boat flipped over after it got caught in rough waters in the infamous Bermuda Triangle.
"The Bermuda Triangle has a reputation for a reason and it's because the wind and the currents interact in unpredictable ways and that can create dangerous waters," Kreek said. "Unfortunately, we were the recipients of some bad luck. We were fully self-supported so we were all alone in the ocean. It's kind of scary when your boat is upside down and you turn on your emergency beacons and you wonder if someone is going to show up. But five hours later an airplane showed up, and, 13 hours after we capsized, a large carrier came by and they plucked us out of the water."
Kreek and the other men were equipped with a large life raft. He said they were "very lucky" to be rescued but added that "you plan to be lucky as well.
"We'd planned for about three-and-a-half years to make this expedition a reality," he said. "Obviously, in that planning process we went through risk analysis and we got full commendations from the Coast Guard, saying they wished everyone they rescued was as well-prepared as us."
Kreek, who is married and has a young son, is now getting back into regular life, which includes involvement in three small businesses and his main gig, which is motivational speaking. His company is called Kreek Speak and is becoming known across Canada and around the world.
When Kreek considers where his life has taken him, he says he owes a great deal to sport. The benefits of participation are plentiful and that's a message he plans to communicate on Thursday night.
"There's a lot of power in sport, [including] the fact that I'm coming into town to share some stories of sport and adventure that are very compelling," he said. "And you can use sport as a motivator for our communities to encourage development in the many different facets of a community. I think of the community that I live in now, Victoria. We had the Commonwealth Games back in 1994 and people often look at that as a turning point in the community, saying, 'OK, here's a mark in time where we came of age and bonded together and figured out how to get things done.'
"And I think that's similar to what P.G. can do -- a northern community that's hosting the [2015 Canada Winter Games], the major Games of our country. It's a great excuse for local businesses and community members to come, pitch in, and create a legacy that people will remember."