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Former Olympic champion caught up in riding nomination controversy

Last Updated Jan 20, 2019 at 10:16 pm EST

Adam van Koeverden is hoping to translate the success he had as an Olympic kayaker to the choppy waters of federal politics.

Van Koeverden, Canada’s most decorated Olympic paddler, captured the Liberal nomination in the Ontario riding of Milton on Sunday. But his nomination did not come without some controversy.

Businessman Azim Rizvee says he was forced out of the nomination race by the Prime Minister’s office in favour of van Koeverden.

Rizvee says he feld “threatened, harassed and bullied” by Justin Trudeau to step aside.

The seat has been held by Conservative MP and current deputy leader Lisa Raitt since 2008. After easily taking the riding by more than 24,000 votes in 2011, she managed to win re-election by less than 2,300 votes over Rizvee in 2015.

“The Liberal Party leadership did not allow me to contest the nomination so that the Prime Minister’s preferred candidate, Adam van Koeverden, can be nominated,” Rizvee said in a statement.

“This is an attack on Canadian democracy, an attack on the aspirations of people of Milton and an attack on the Liberal values.”

A spokesman for the Liberals said the Milton nomination was held in accordance with the party’s nomination rules, and more than 800 Liberal members turned out to vote.

Braeden Caley declined to provide a breakdown of the results, but said the other nomination candidate was Mian Abubaqr, the president of the Milton riding association.

Van Koeverden, whose four Olympic medals are the most by any Canadian paddler, announced his decision to seek the Liberal nomination in Milton last October. A website laying out the details of the 36-year-old kayaker’s candidacy says his campaign will focus on traditional Liberal values with an emphasis on youth, sport, physical education and healthy communities.

The party says in a statement that the “long-time Liberal … received early support from a broad spectrum of community and business leaders in Milton and spent several weeks knocking on doors and meeting with the families within the riding.”

Files from The Canadian Press were used in this report