Athlete of the Month - December 2012
Ondrej Synek is on top of the world. He has just completed the perfect season and, after winning the World Rowing Championships in the men’s single sculls, he can claim to be the current fastest rower in the world. Ondrej did all of this and then made it back to his home in the Czech Republic to witness the birth of his daughter. Ondrej is World Rowing’s Athlete of the Month for December and he shares with us his new rowing confidence.
World Rowing: Tell us a bit about your rowing background. Does anyone else in your family row?
As a small boy I was playing football and athletics, then my cousin took me to a rowing club when I was 13. At the beginning for me it was more like meeting people and being with a group of friends, but then I started to put more effort in. I am the only one in my family to do sport.
WR: You changed from the double sculls to the single scull after the Athens Olympics. How did this change come about?
OS: I was better in a single when I was training. I wanted to be the best in the event that I see as the top discipline. The single is the best one to be good at. I beat Vaclav Chalupa in the qualification in the Czech Republic and then I knew the single was the way for me. It gave me confidence.
WR: With the strength of the current field in the men's single did you ever think of moving back to the double or another boat?
OS: No, it has never crossed my mind. It’s fun to fight with the best for the title of World Champion or to win the Olympic Games.
WR: What do you think it is about your personality that suits rowing in the single?
OS: Mainly I’m very single-minded and focused. I’m very hard on myself when I train and I don’t let any doubt cross my mind. Otherwise I’m just a normal guy.
WR: You have just completed the perfect season. Was there anything different for you coming into this season?
OS: This has been the best year of my life. I won all the regattas at the international level and my daughter Alice was born. The difference this season was mainly in the boat. I changed my boat to Empacher and that was one of the key moments of this season. It felt perfect the first time I went in the boat.
WR: What was your strategy in the final at the World Rowing Championships?
OS: To win. It was important to qualify for the final and to save most of my energy for the final. Before the final I needed to have a good sleep and good nutrition, regenerate and to relax the body. Then it was just about what was in my head, how I was mentally prepared. I believed in myself and this season I managed to bring it all to perfection. I didn’t want my rivals to feel any of my weaknesses.
WR: From this season which race would you say was the hardest for you?
OS: The semifinal at the World Rowing Championships. Mahe Drysdale had problems with his stickers on the boat (which caused the race to be restarted) and I was all pumped up for the race and I had to wait. My muscles were tensed up and ready to go. But then having to wait was very hard. The race really hurt. :)
WR: You came to New Zealand knowing that your fiancée was expecting your baby very shortly. What was your plan if the baby arrived early?
OS: I didn’t have any plan. I would still race and then go home. I was on the other side of the world!
WR: Has your training plan changed at all since baby Alice arrived?
OS: I’ve been having time off from training since Alice was born, so most of my time at the moment is with my family. Alice is a good baby so I think I won’t have to change any of my training plans.
WR: Are you taking some time off after the World Rowing Championships?
OS: I’m on leave for eight weeks but after six weeks I start light training. In the meantime football, ice hockey and gentle gym - just for fun and as I feel. I’m going to sit back in the boat for the first time in the spring.
WR: Where are you based and where do you train?
OS: At the moment I live in Prague and I train with my club, Dukla Praha. The training conditions are perfect and all services are 100 per cent. Currently I’m building a house in Stara Boleslav which is my home town. It’s about 20km from Prague.
WR: What is your typical day like at present?
OS: Sleep, sleep and again sleep. I am having 14 days in a healing spa resort where I will regenerate. I need to get more energy for next season. I’m looking forward to Christmas and I’m really going to enjoy it.
Ondrej Synek talks with World Rowing about his goals for the next two years, his training, motorcycles, media interest and more...
World Rowing: Now that you have been away from rowing training are you keen to get back to it, or enjoying the break?
Ondrej Synek: Honestly I’m looking forward to training. I enjoyed the free time and now slowly I’m starting to do winter preparation in the gym and on the ergometer. From the first of January I’ll start back at 100 per cent.
WR: Has there been much media interest in you locally since you returned to the Czech Republic as a World Champion?
OS: The interest is definitely bigger. On the 22nd December on TV the best sportsman of the year will be announced and I’m in the top 10, however I’ve heard that I’ll be in the top three. I had lots of interviews when I got back and I’m also pleased that rowing has been more in the public eye. It’s a small sport in the Czech Republic and now loads of people know it’s a nice sport.
WR: Have there been comparisons made between you and Vaclav Chalupa?
OS: Yes, quite a lot in the past, but now that Vaclav has finished (rowing) not so much. Before I would hear all of the time that he never won the World Championships and questions like if I will ever win or always be in Vaclav’s shadow.
WR: Where do you keep your World Champion medal?
OS: I have it in a cupboard. I’m not a display person, I’m a collector :)
WR: You mentioned in your last interview that you are building a house, will there be any feature in it that is related to rowing? An indoor rowing room perhaps?
OS: The house will be classic. I’m looking forward to it. I haven’t planned for any indoor gym as I go to train at the rowing club and I’d rather be in a gym with my friends than at home.
WR: Tell us a few of your statistics:
* What is your best 2000m erg test?
OS: 5.41 and 6000m 18.11
* What do you bench press?
OS: Max weight 120kg but I would like to say I don’t really spend too much time doing it. I would do a higher bench press if I did it more often.
* What is your weight in the off-season and what is it during the rowing season?
OS: Normally I weigh 100kg, now I am 106kg and once I was 110kg.
WR: If you were not a rower what do you think you would be doing?
OS: I am a goldsmith by trade, I really enjoy it and I still enjoy it. Unfortunately I don’t have time to work in this area. Maybe when I finish rowing I’ll go back to this. I’m also interested in marketing within the sport area. I would like to find out more about it.
WR: What athlete do you most admire?
OS: My favourite sportsman is Valentino Rossi. I drive a motorbike and I know a bit about it. Rossi is a person who’s managed to win the world championships many times right from the beginning. I hope with Ducati he manages to win again. I’m his biggest fan.
WR: What is your goal for the 2011 season?
OS: The main goal is to qualify for the Olympic Games. If the season is as successful as 2010 I would be very happy. But I think it will be very difficult and I will have to do something a bit more than I’ve been doing now. Of course, I’d like to be the World Champion again.
Translation thanks to Rosanna Jennings