Adam Kreek: From ADHD to the Olympic podium

Posted on Friday, August 24, 2012

Adam Kreek won a gold medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics as a member of the men's eights. / Photo courtesy of Adam Kreek

On Thursday, Aug 30, McGill’s Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD) will welcome Canadian Olympic gold medalist, Adam Kreek, as its lunchtime keynote speaker, during the OSD’s Orientation Week “Happening” event. Kreek won Olympic Gold in rowing at the Beijing 2008 Olympics and was named Athlete Leader of the year at the prestigious Canadian Sports Awards for his outstanding contributions to sport as a leader, advocate, change agent and builder.

As a child Kreek was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a condition that affects 8-10 per cent of male and 3-4 per cent of female adolescents in Canada. Kreek will offer an empowering and invigorating perspective on accomplishment that deconstructs and challenges many preconceptions related to ADHD.

What went through your head when you were finally standing atop the podium at the Olympics?

I was exhausted. Endorphins rushed through me. Nerves and adrenaline had been building in my body for weeks prior to my five-and-a-half-minute race. I’d been anticipating this moment for over eight years. The joy of post race contrasted significantly with the sickness of anticipation I felt pre-race.

I stood with eight of my closest friends on the podium. Many things went through my head: “We won! Wooooooooooo!” “Where’s my wife? I can’t wait to see her.” “I should phone my mom and dad.” To be honest, standing on the podium was much more emotional and filled with raw excitement, rather than intellectual processing.  Being on the podium was certainly an exercise of living in the present.

What is the driving force behind your achievements and how do you stay motivated?

I have a clear understanding of my skill set and potential for success. If I see that I can contribute to the greater good, be effective in my role and be rewarded for my efforts, I will work incredibly hard. I stay motivated by embracing and channelling my potential and surrounding myself with a great team whom I do not want to let down. I also gain motivation from others with whom I share common goals, and I seek advice from those who have achieved the same or similar goals that I am working towards.

Bottom line, success is contagious. Sadly, the inverse is also true. If we surround ourselves by unmotivated individuals, it’s likely that we will follow in similar trajectories. Choose to surround yourself with driven, successful, inspirational and supportive people.

Photo courtesy of Adam Kreek

You are the guest speaker at the OSD Orientation Event “Happening” which seeks to promote the inclusion of diverse learners. What advice would you have for any student who is not feeling ‘mainstream’?

There is no mainstream. That concept is a myth. Start where you are. Work with your strengths.  Be honest with yourself. Create goals that are reasonable and work your butt off. Find a tribe of people with whom you can relate. Share your goals openly with this group and engage in honest and supportive dialogue. These people will support you and provide guidance if stray from your goals and principles along your journey.

How do you use your experience in athletics to your best advantage in environments and situations that require more traditional, sit down modes of engagements?  

When I decided to attend University, I knew I could not sit through endless lectures, labs and study sessions without having a regular physical outlet. I chose to pursue the sport of rowing to fulfill my need to be active. I also chose to walk and bike as much as possible. To this day I embrace the concept of active transport. I believe that we all need to be active, and sit as little as possible. In fact, aerobic activity is like miracle-grow for the brain. It helps us learn, lowers depression, and regulates anxiety.

I also maintain a healthy diet, full of fresh and whole foods. I limit my intake of processed foods and sugar, and find that this in particular helps regulate my energy and allows me to work effectively, especially in sitting environments.

Adam Kreek will be delivering his talk on Thursday, Aug.; 12-2 p.m. A lunch will be provided between noon and 1 p.m. in the James W. McKee Jr. Business Lounge (room 600), Faculty of Management, sixth floor. Kreek’s talk will be in the Nabisco Room (room 620) starting ay 1 p.m. For more information go to






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