By Martin Cleary
Niklas Hansen has visited Canada a few times because he finds our culture quite similar to that of his native Denmark.
Those trips to the world’s second largest country definitely left an impression on him as he has decided to upgrade his status to resident from visitor, after accepting a coaching position with the Rideau Canoe Club.
Hansen, 28, has been hired by Canada’s No. 1 competitive canoe/kayak club to be its U16 sprint program head coach. After he receives his work permit, he plans to visit a core group of the Rideau paddlers at a training camp in Florida before coming to Ottawa in April.
“This is a big deal for the Rideau Canoe Club,” said club commodore James Price in a phone interview.
A notable Danish kayaker on many levels until he retired as an athlete in 2012, Hansen is in his 10th year coaching age-group kayakers and canoeists. During his paddling travels, he has been impressed by the Rideau paddlers representing Canada.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Canada in March, 2020, he contacted the Rideau club to inquire about any full-time openings. Rideau wasn’t looking for any coaches at that time, but asked him to keep in touch. When Rideau recently needed to hire a U16 coach, Hansen applied for the job, received an interview and was offered the position.
“There are only five full-time coaching jobs in all of Denmark, making it a very competitive field,” Hansen wrote in an email interview.
“Rideau stands out as a club with its size and level of results. I had been in talks with Rideau during the winter of 2020-21, but COVID restrictions continued to limit club activities. I was thrilled when I was able to apply for the position.”
Hansen, who will work with Rideau head coach Cheyenne Farquharson, has a similar coaching philosophy as the club, which aims at developing “whole athletes” and not concentrating on producing one or two key paddlers.
“Rideau truly stands out with its results and programs, winning the overall burgee at the Canadian (sprint) championships in 2015, 2018, 2019 and 2021,” Hansen added. “Rideau also (stands out for) its core values. The club focuses on creating ‘whole athletes,’ who will succeed inside and outside the sport. These values have also been ingrained in me during my time in the sport, which was ultimately why I chose to come to Rideau.”
“I’m looking forward to joining one of Canada’s largest and most successful canoe clubs,” he said in a Rideau Canoe Club press release. “Rideau’s success is built on some great values and a strong coaching team that I can’t wait to be part of.”
Several months after retiring as a paddler a decade ago, Hansen was asked to be a volunteer coach a couple times a week for his club in Silkeborg, the site of Denmark’s largest and most successful kayak club. He viewed this as a great opportunity “to give back to the community that had supported me as an athlete.” He was responsible for the U12 and U14 paddlers.
In the spring of 2013, his club received funding to be designated a regional talent development centre and he was hired as a part-time coach for the U14 and U16 programs.
“It was a big step for me to coach alongside my former coach Finn Pape, the most successful youth coach in Danish history,” Hansen added. “Finn taught me many things during my time as an athlete and more even as a coach.”
Hansen’s ability also was recognized by the Danish canoe federation and he was hired as a team leader and assistant coach for the Danish U16, junior and U23 teams in 2015.
“I’ve been in this position since, driving a trailer through most of Europe and being at every Nordic, European and World championship – coaching year-round at talent development centres and travelling with the national team during the summer competition months,” he wrote.
When Hansen moved to Kongens Lyngby, which is in the Greater Copenhagen Area, to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration, he was named a coach at the talent development centre in Vallensbaek. He worked at the Lake Bagsvaerd talent development centre in 2019 and 2020 before returning to Vallensbaek.
Hansen earned his MSc in business administration and leadership from Roskilde University in the spring of 2021 and joined the Danish federation in a part-time role as an assistant high manager. He also helped run the remaining senior team program and did administrative work, while the Olympians competed at the Tokyo Summer Games.
As an athlete, he started paddling in 2005 at age 11 and three years later earned his first Danish championship medal. He represented Denmark at the Nordic, Junior European and Junior World championships as well as a World Cup.
Internationally, his best result was a 15th in the men’s K2 1,000 metres at the Junior World Championships in 2011. That same year, he won the K2 1,000 metres and the marathon at the Danish Championships.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the High Achievers “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.
HELP SHINE A LIGHT ON LOCAL SPORT! The Ottawa Sports Pages has proudly provided a voice for local sport for over 10 years, but we need your help to continue another 10 and beyond. Please donate to the Ottawa Sports Pages Fund today.