Athlete of the Month – August 2014
The Netherlands’ sweep rower Rogier Blink was a finalist at two Olympic Games in the Dutch men’s eight, in Beijing and in London. In recent years the 32-year-old has seen success in the men’s pair, medalling three times at the European Rowing Championships and once at the World Rowing Championships. Looking forward to racing at a World Championships on home waters, Blink and his crewmate Mitchel Steenman will be one of the top crews to look out for in the men’s pair.
World Rowing: How and when did you become involved in rowing?
Rogier Blink: When I was 17, I started rowing at my student club Gyas Groningen.
WR: What led you to become an elite athlete?
RB: As a small boy I loved everything that had to do with elite sports. During the Olympic Games I spent my time between the television and competing in my own Olympics with my friends in the park. That competitiveness made me like rowing so much and made me aim high.
WR: You began your international rowing career in the men’s single sculls, winning bronze at the world under-23 level. Since moving on to the senior level, you have focused exclusively on sweep rowing. How did the transition from sculling to sweep rowing take place?
RB: After the Athens Olympics, the Dutch Federation focused only on sweep rowing. I wasn’t good enough to be a world class single sculler, so switching to sweep rowing was the logical step for me. I still love to train a lot in the single and race the Dutch top scullers. And I’d really like to race the quad once internationally before I retire.
WR: In recent years, you have alternated between rowing in the pair and rowing in the eight. What do you like/dislike most about these two boats?
RB: The big difference for me is that in an eight you row as fast from start to finish, like a time trial. In the pair you really race your opponents. That’s what I love about the pair. Besides that we have a saying in Dutch: “achten is wachten”, in English: “rowing the eight is a lot of waiting”. Big groups are less flexible; in the pair we are more flexible to do what is best for us.
WR: After the 2012 Olympic Games, you and Mitchel Steenman partnered in the pair. Both of you were part of the men’s eight in London. What led you two to form a partnership?
RB: Mitchel and I rowed together for many years in the eight. In 2008 I swapped sides for a few months and we rowed well together. In the end it was better to go back to port side so being in the pair together wasn't an option.
In October 2011 the same happened. Mitchel and I both wanted to have a spot in the eight for the London Games. We got in the pair and we won all the trials that winter. During the struggle towards London we decided to row the pair at the European Championships in Varese to see if we could compete at a high level in the pair. We won, so it was clear which boat we would row for 2013.
WR: How do you and Mitchel complement one another?
RB: Mitchel is the quiet constant factor and I’m more the emotional fighter. He can set a smooth rhythm, I just push my legs. Apparently that works for us.
WR: Since forming a pair, you have won World Championship bronze together, as well as a medal of each colour at the European Rowing Championships. How do you see your future together?
RB: We’re both quite experienced or if I say it boldly, we’re getting old. 2016 will probably be our last Olympics. We want a medal and what would be better than doing that in the most beautiful boat class - the pair.
WR: Which of your opponents do you admire most and why?
RB: I respect all of my opponents; they all put in a lot of work to be where they are. Bond & Murray are these years in a class of their own. It's wonderful to race this kind of athletes.
WR: What do you think are your main strengths and weaknesses?
RB: Racing - a big compliment I once had was a coach telling me he couldn't understand how I did it. “Technically it looks not very good and your erg score isn't that great either.” He was right, so those are my weaknesses.
WR: Health-wise, the 2014 regatta season has not been entirely smooth for you. How are you feeling at present?
RB: Great! Seeing the Bosbaan changing into a rowing stadium is a big boost for us. Home World Champs is a once in a lifetime experience and we're ready for it. And if I wasn't feeling great, I wouldn't tell you three weeks before the World Champs J
WR: Have you or the Dutch Rowing Team been involved in any way with the organisation of the World Rowing Championships?
RB: We had meetings with them, so we could tell them about our wishes, like static umpiring and more training times, because the Bosbaan is a small course. They also kept us informed so we know exactly what will happen, we're well prepared.
WR: In your opinion, what can rowers from around the world look forward to most about the 2014 World Rowing Championships?
RB: Dutch atmosphere, great supporters and hopefully a lot of swimmers after the finals, because that means the Dutch have won. And of course the riding grandstand; support all the way down the course!
WR: You are now in your 13th year of international competition and were twice a finalist at the Olympic Games. How do you see the future of your rowing career?
RB: I don't think about that now. First focus on my home World Championships. During the holiday afterwards I will think about my future.
WR: What do you do when you are not rowing or training?
RB: Two things: lying in bed/on the couch to get fit for the next session and a lot of table tennis. We now have even got a table in our new bigger Olympic Training Centre.
WR: How do you see yourself in ten years’ time?
RB: A beautiful wife, a few kids, a four-day working week, hopefully not too much of a potbelly and rowing once a week a Douglas single over flat water. Enjoying life.