Nestled on Navy Flats along the banks of Sixteen Mile Creek is the little club that could – the Burloak Canoe Club (founded in 1989). However, Burloak’s story begins long before this official club was founded. It actually dates back to 1958 when The Mohawk Canoe Club came to fruition in Burlington. Formerly situated where Spencer Smith Park now lies, the Mohawk Club was started by Mike Moir, Bill Pitt and Bill Dinsmore under black and green racing colours. In 1974, the Oakville Racing Club was founded by former Toronto Island paddler, Bill Collins, and Dorothy Jamison, under the colours of brown and white. In 1989, the two clubs joined forces forming the Burloak Canoe Club, adopting a new set of official colours – solid black with a coloured badge on the front. And since then, the Burloak Canoe Club has gained a name for itself, lending a hand in developing the skills of some of the top paddlers in the world.
Adam Oldershaw, Head Coach at the Burloak Canoe Club, recently coached 2021 Olympian Alanna Bray-Lougheed. Oldershaw says, “I started coaching Alanna when she was 14 years old, and the most striking characteristic I’ve seen over the years is her willingness to do the work, even at that young age. I think she was hesitant for many years to believe that she really could set her goals to be at the top, but I’ve had the good fortune to help her on that path to realizing that she can be among the very best and compete on the world stage”. And while Alanna didn’t win a medal in the 2021 Tokyo Summer Olympics, she has made a name for herself in the sprint kayaker sport. In 2019, she was pondering retirement, but earned a spot on the team for the Lima 2019 Pan Am Games, and found renewed focus and drive. She raced to gold in the K-2 500m and helped the women’s K-4 500m team paddle to their third consecutive gold.
But long before Alanna qualified to represent Team Canada in the Olympics, The Mohawk Canoe Club and The Oakville Racing Club had earned our two cities quite a reputation on the Olympic stage. In 1984, Larry Cain became the first Canadian to win an Olympic canoeing title since Berlin in 1936, and Jack Chubaty followed in qualifying for the Olympic team in 1988. Then, came Adam van Koeverden and Adam’s brother, Mark Oldershaw.
Adam van Koeverden started paddling at only 13 years old, eventually winning four Olympic and eight world championship medals. Mark Oldershaw entered his first Olympic games in 2008 in Beijing. Mark had initially planned on entering the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. However, in earlier years, a tumor was discovered in his right hand which was his prominent paddling hand. This required two surgeries, damaging a nerve and causing him chronic pain. It caused Mark to miss qualifying in 2004, but he successfully brought home a bronze medal in the 2012 summer Olympics.
Burloak Canoe Club has also coached Brady Reardon who raced front paddler for Canada in Beijing in 2008. Brady’s father, Jim Reardon, also raced in the same position in the 1972 Olympics. Chris Pellini, another Burloak-er, raced in Beijing in 2008 and Gavin Maxwell raced in the 1996 Olympics.
There is so much history on the racers and the club itself that we can’t quite fit it all into one short story. As a club that has earned more gold medals than any other Canadian Canoe Club in the last 30 years, the talent and history of its paddlers and coaches run deep with pride. The club offers a first-class training program for close to 250 members of all ages and levels of experience, from novice to world champion, so there’s no saying who will be next to bring home a gold.