The Ageless Olympian
by Kyle Noone
Davey Hearn, 41, is in Sydney competing in his third Olympic games. He has been a member of the U.S. canoe and kayak team since 1977. He holds 18 national titles.
|Davey Hearn, Olympian|
|Davey Hearn's Olympic Journal|
Sport: Slalom Canoe
|Number of Olympics: 3|
|Number of world championships: 2|
|Number of national championships: 18|
|Years on U.S. team: 23|
|Personal: Married to Jennifer Hearn, one of his Olympic coaches and one-time member of the U.S. National Team. Brother to Cathy Hearn, a world champion canoeist and two-time Olympic team member. Davey and Jennifer have one son, Jesse, 1½.|
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Athletic clichés do little to explain that sort of perseverance. Commentators will wax on about "intangibles" and physical prowess. Hearn points to something different.
True endurance isn't about how long you go. Or what awards you win. It's how much you enjoy what you're doing and how well you do it, whatever it is.
Hearn won his first world championship in 1985 and his second 10 years later. He's been the youngest and now he's the oldest. For him every year, at every age, competition has never been about one medal or another, but about the thrill of opportunity that lies just ahead. That's why, he says, he bounced back from a shoulder surgery to win his latest national championship at age 41. And it's why the thought of his 11/2-year-old kid gives him as much pleasure as the image of a gold medal dangling from his neck.
He has all the gold medal requisites: Natural physical talent. A tenacious training schedule. Calm under pressure. But it has taken more than these traits to excel in a sport as demanding as whitewater slalom.
"You should never make any judgments as to what's possible ahead of time," he says. "You've got to have an open mind, be open to the possibilities of what you can do."
When the Maryland native was just 13, a then-unknown local paddler named Jamie McEwan came out of nowhere to surprise the world with a bronze in the `72 Olympic games. Hearn and his older sister Cathy — also a national team member and two-time Olympic paddler — took notice. "We didn't ever say it to each other," Hearn recalls, "but we thought to ourselves, if someone like him can do it, maybe we can too."
Hearn has taken this attitude to, well, Olympian levels. Time after time people have counted him out, called him too old and doubted his chances. Time after time he has proved them wrong — for three decades and counting.
Countdown to the Games:
Davey Hearn's Olympic Journal