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Home / Personality of the week -The remarkable rise of rower Maike Diekmann…

Personality of the week -The remarkable rise of rower Maike Diekmann…

2021-06-17  Staff Reporter

Personality of the week -The remarkable rise of rower Maike Diekmann…
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What inspired you to go into the sport of rowing practice? 

It actually took me two years to finally give myself the push and try rowing at university. Where I am from in Namibia, I didn’t grow up with a lot of water sports, which would make sense in a country that is water scarce and mostly covered in a desert as many like to joke. It seemed to me that rowing was a sport you needed to have some background of from school at least.

I, therefore, actually joined the hockey team for a year and next, I joined the sailing and kitesurfing club. I then got the chance to row in a mixed crew full of novices for a regatta. 

That’s when I realised I wanted to give this sport a try. I jumped straight into it and joined a training camp early in the year, a whole month before classes actually started. I didn’t know anyone but became part of the rowing family very quickly. 

The first rowing boat I ever rowed in was the scull, so from day one it was always the scull and I am forever grateful for that. 

Even though it took me at least a month of training sessions that would almost always end with me drenched and capsizing the boat. I am normally a very impatient person, but something about rowing got me hooked and I committed to it with everything.

 

What are some of your personal achievements?

Winning bronze at International Memorial Paolo D’Aloja Regatta, Piediluco, Italy (2019); 9th at World Cup III, Rotterdam (2019); Gold at FISA African Olympic and Paralympic Qualification regatta, Tunisia(2019) (Qualified for Tokyo Olympic Games); Gold at African Championships, Tunisia (2019); 1st at World Rowing Virtual Indoor Sprints (1000m), (2020); 2x Silver at International Memorial Paolo D’Aloja Regatta, Piediluco, Italy (2021); 1st at Virtual African Indoor Rowing Championships (2000m) (2021); two silver medals at South African National Championship (2019, 2021).

 

Was there a race or event that made you fall even more in love with the sport? And when did you realise you could make the Namibian national team?

When I raced as part of a novice eight in the annual South African Universities Boat Race in 2014, I felt the rush and adrenalin that I will never forget. 

I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, our strokes were out of time and we were just rushing up and down the slide, but we were ahead of the other crew and I remember feeling so pumped and I thought to myself, ‘wow this could be a new sport and challenge I would like to try’. 

It was also after that race that my coach from the early days at university took me aside and said he really thought I have potential and build to become a good rower. That’s when I realised there could be something here. 

I started training the next year and took part in all the novice categories at local regattas in South Africa. Then only seven months into this new sport, I raced for the first time representing Namibia at the African Qualifying regatta for the Rio Olympics Games, which took place in Tunisia. 

I was in the B-final and far off the top athletes who qualified, but that’s when I set myself a goal, because I knew at that moment that I wanted to make it to the next Olympic Games for Namibia. Then four years later, I won the same event and qualified for this year’s Tokyo Olympic Games. It’s been an incredible journey that I have been lucky enough to experience.

 

Which would you say has been your best or worst race to date?

It’s tough to choose one race as my best one, as best does not always mean the results were the defining factor to make it one of my best races. 

If I had to choose one race that I am really proud of, I would choose the final at the Memorial Paolo D’ Aloja Regatta in Italy in 2019, where I won my first international medal. 

That race really gave me a huge confidence boost and I started to see that there was more speed to find but most importantly, that I was able to race with the top end women and that gave me a lot of self belief. 

The worst race must have been when I raced for the first time in Tunisia in 2015 - the lake was very windy, almost un-rowable, or at least in the eyes of a ‘novice’ that had seven months of rowing experience. 

My main goal was to not fall into the water and just finish the race; the cross wind was blowing us all over the course.

 

Is there anything you’ve done in the sport that no one knows about?

I guess it would have to be the rowing expedition (RowZambezi) that I did in 2018 on the Kafue River in Zambia to raise funds for conservation, clean water and promote rowing. 

Some will properly remember that I was part of this incredible experience, but very few will know that we rowed within very close proximity of crocodiles and big groups of hippos - the most dangerous animal in Africa. I always felt safe as we had a great team and plan in place for every possible scenario that could happen. 

It was an incredible experience to row through part of Zambia that was so untouched and taking in all the beauty of its nature. It will forever be one of the most memorable times of my life rowing past herds of elephants having a dip in the river and camping alongside the river in the middle of nowhere.

 

What is the one piece of advice that you would give to young and aspiring rowers?

Have fun! Yes, keep dreaming big and chasing after your goals every day but don’t forget that at the end of the day, the journey and process that you go through to get to those goals is far more important than the end destination. 

You want to look back and be able to say that you had a great time and made the most out of the opportunities, that you enjoyed the challenges that have shaped you as an athlete but importantly also as a person. 

Also, on tough days remind yourself why you choose this sport and what drives you to keep going. And lastly, don’t forget to be present in the moment, it is easy to get caught up in the daily grind and routine that you forget to appreciate the small things that light up your day and the small things that are the reasons you love this sport so much. 

- www.row2k.com


2021-06-17  Staff Reporter

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