Mark de Jonge

2x World Champion, Olympic bronze medalist

Kayaking has been my life for the past 23 years. Day-in-day-out, all around the world and through various challenges and celebrations in life, kayaking has been, and continues to be my greatest passion. Kayaking has seen me through my formative years from junior high school through an engineering degree; it was what I did everyday before and after work; it became my full-time job, and is now one of my many priorities as a husband and father. 

Throughout all these years, kayaking has taught me important lessons about performance, quality, innovation, collaboration, and grit. As a younger athlete, having narrowly missed out on the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, I learned that success in life is measured by more than medals. I stepped away from full-time training briefly to work as a geotechnical engineer-in-training then returned to the sport to fulfil my lifelong Olympic dream, and won a bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics in London. 

In the following years, I worked closely with my team and put my engineering skills to use for sport performance. We continuously innovated and refined my equipment, training, and performance and I became one of the most successful athletes ever in the K1 200m (single kayak, 200m) event, having won a silver medal at the 2013 world championships, breaking the world record, and winning back-to-back world championship titles in 2014 and 2015, when I was voted the Air Canada Canadian Athlete of the Year. 

In 2016, I was the gold medal favourite heading into the Rio Olympics yet, despite my best efforts, I finished 7th after a relatively flat season. I learned that winning streaks are hard to maintain and it was time to recharge if I wanted to continue my quest for Olympic gold in 2020 (now 2021). Following the Rio Olympics, I took some time away from competition to recover and prepare for my fifth Olympic campaign and my wife and I welcomed our son, Max, into the world. I’ve since returned to international competition with an entirely new perspective on my life. Last year, myself and others raced in the K4 500m (four-man kayak, 500m) event at the world championships and qualified four quota spots for the Olympics in 2021, where I hope to compete in my signature race, the K1 200m and also race with my K4 500m team. 

Over the next year, I will close out what will be a 24-year career as a competitive kayak athlete and I hope to leave a legacy within the sport and beyond. So far, I’ve won an Olympic medal, was the best in the world in my event twice and held a world record. An Olympic gold medal would be the perfect way to end my journey as a world-class athlete, and beyond that, showing my son, firsthand, what is possible when you set your mind to something would be the greatest legacy I can hope to leave behind.

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