Athlete of the Month - June 2011
The Dutch men’s rowing eight would not be the same without one man. Diederik Simon has held a spot in the boat since the 2004 Olympic Games. He started off in bow seat and by the time the 2008 Beijing Olympics rolled around the then 37 year old had moved up into the commanding position of stroke. Simon has remained in that spot through to today leading a crew whose members are sometimes up to 17 years his junior.
But Simon’s experience in eights rowing goes back further. In 1996, Simon’s second year on the Dutch National Team, he raced at the Olympic Games in his country’s eight. They won gold.
Simon made headlines in his home city of Amsterdam by choosing to auction off his 1996 Olympic gold medal as a fundraiser for his rowing club, Nereus.
London and Olympics number five now beckons as he trains this year for his 11th World Rowing Championships.
World Rowing: How did you first get involved in rowing?
Diederik Simon: In 1991, I walked into the Amsterdam rowing club “Nereus” by coincidence. That is where I first got in contact with competitive rowing. Rowing was certainly not a family tradition: nobody in my family is sporty!
WR: What keeps you motivated to keep competing at the elite level?
DS: Like most athletes, my motivation originates from ambition and aspiration, but it has become second nature over time. It is not always fun, rowing at the elite level, but as long as things are going well, I am enjoying it.
WR: Since taking up rowing can you name a time that you feel you really were at your best physically?
DS: I can’t pin down a period in which I was at my best, because my fitness fluctuates quite a lot through the year, it always has. Overall it has been pretty constant over the years.
WR: When did you do your best 2km erg piece?
DS: My best 2k erg test was in 2000 (I think).
WR: How would you describe your approach to rowing? Is it more technical or more power-based?
DS: Both I would say. As long as the boat and rigging is perfectly fixed and adjusted! When the boat is perfect I am happy.
WR: Have you changed your approach to rowing and training over the years?
DS: I don’t think that people change that much when they are getting older…
WR: Where can you be found in the hour or two before a big race?
DS: I don’t have a particular ritual, usually I can be found tinkering the boat.
WR: Are you a full-time rower?
DS: I am nowadays
WR: With all of your rowing success, especially at the Olympic level, are you well known in the Netherlands?
DS: Yes, last time I was in a shop somebody asked whether I was a speed skater - ha ha!
WR: What award that you have received are you most proud of?
DS: I have not won any “awards” as an individual yet. Talking about my Olympic medals, the silver in the men’s quadruple sculls in Sydney 2000 is most special to me.