Athlete of the Month - March 2011
The German eight sat just behind their football team last year in popularity. Nearly every German knows the brand “Deutschlandachter” (German eight). Sitting in the stroke seat of that boat is Sebastian Schmidt. Sebastian is our March Athlete of the Month.
World Rowing: You are currently in Sabaudia, Italy. How long have you been here?
We've been here for little less than a week...
WR: How long will you stay?
SS: ... and we're staying here until the 14th of March.
WR: What is the attraction of Sabaudia (for a training camp)? What is the attraction of Sabaudia for you personally?
SS: We came here, because of the good training and weather conditions. Sabaudia is a little city at the waterfront with the Lago di Varese as our training course. What I like about this training camp is that we get out of the usual environment. The hotel is very nice and is right by the beach. We've expected the weather to be better than in Germany, but unfortunately so far it's been raining and the temperature is at 10°C. According to the forecast, it should be getting better within the next few days though - sunny and about 18°C.
WR: Is this a regular training venue for the German team?
SS: Yes, Sabaudia is one of the oldest training venues of our team. Other venues are Seville, Spain, Weißensee, Austria or different cities in Germany, for example Ratzeburg - but only in the summer.
WR: What is your typical day like at present?
SS: 6am: Weighing (fortunately only every 2nd day) and breakfast
7am: rowing and breakfast
10.30am rowing or strength training
12.30am lunch and the best part of the day: a short nap
3.30pm rowing or a "short" trip with the road bikes if the weather is ok. And if it's getting boring, we just do some stretching. The official day ends with dinner at 7pm.
WR: Are you training in the eight (or other boats)?
SS: Our boat man Markus Schmitz brought 2 huge trailers to Italy: pairs, fours and eights - so we're able to switch all of the boats, but the focus is on the eight.
WR: What kind of body of water are you rowing on?
SS: We're rowing on the Lago di Sabaudia, it's a big lake of about 7km round. In the morning there are very good conditions, during the day its getting a little bit more windy, because of the closeness to the coast.
WR: Are you doing any cross-training?
SS: As mentioned above we go cycling a few times and once a week we play football (European football of course). These are very popular hours: some of us wear footballshirts of their favourite club and so it's always a "fight" between fans of BVB Dortmund, Schalke 04, Bayern München and the best club of the world Mainz 05 :-)
WR: What has been the hardest session (or hardest day) so far on the training camp (and what did it involve)?
SS: I think it was last Sunday: some 5k pieces in the eight, 15km in the pair with Toni Seifert my partner, 45min of stretching and 20km in the pair.
WR: Tell us a bit about your rowing background. How did you get involved? Does anyone else in your family row? Do you (or did you) do any other sports?
SS: When I went to school I had to choose a sport course. After a few days my teachers Mr. Clüver and Mr. Widera asked me to join the local rowing club (Wiesbaden) and so I did. Both are responsible for "all of this" and I'm very thankful! After 6 years I joined the Mainzer Ruderverein, my current club. After a few years of rowing, my grandma told me that she had rowed a long time ago, also my younger brother and sister rowed for a few years. Before I got involved I tried judo and volleyball. If there's some spare time I like to cycle with my mountain bike or road bike. And if I ever quit rowing I'm going to try handball.
WR: How did you choose rowing (over other sports)?
SS: One reason I chose rowing is the fact that the team has to work in perfect harmony. Another reason is the variety of activities we do: it's an indoor and outdoor sport, we cycle, we play football, we do some weightlifting and so on.
WR: You moved from two seat in the eight (at the Beijing Olympics) to stroke seat. How did this come about? What do you think it is about you that makes you suitable for stroke seat?
SS: Oh that's a good question - why don't you ask my coach Ralf Holthmeyer? In our team we've got several guys who are able to row in the stroke seat - the whole winter we change the positions in order to find the best combination. Maybe I've got some skills which make it more easy for me to row in the stroke seat - impulsivity, pain tolerance... I think all of us have those skills, one more than the other. But in the end it is Ralf's decision who's in stroke, so you have to ask him.
WR: The eight has now won gold two years in a row at the World Rowing Championships. Would you say the pressure to succeed increased for Karapiro 2010? What was the different mental approach between the 2009 and 2010 World Championships?
SS: Yes, the pressure increased definitely! In 2009 we wanted to show everybody, that our Olympic result wasn't the maximum, so we trained very hard and were rewarded. In 2010, two of the 2009 crew were replaced by two younger guys and so we tried to row as good as the year before. Winning the title is hard, but to defend it is harder. The distance between the first boats decreased to a canvas.
WR: What country/countries do you view as the biggest threat in the men’s eight?
SS: Great Britain has a very professional team, the Dutch (they were in Sabaudia too), the Australian team and the Canadians.
WR: I understand that you are training to be a medical doctor. What stage are you at? What kind of doctor do you hope to be (a specialist)? How do you fit study in with rowing?
SS: In Germany the study is split into two different parts. I finished the first one last August. Next year I'm going to reduce my studies and hope to finish them in 2014. For the moment I'm interested in surgery. Combining full-time studying and competitive rowing can be difficult, but most of all it's time-consuming with all the training and classes, labs, internships and so forth.
World Rowing: You said you were leaving Sabaudia (Italy) on 14 March. Where are you now and what have you done for the rest of the month?
Sebastian Schmidt: We're at home in Dortmund and recovering from the training camp.
WR: Do you know what your first race of the season will be?
SS: Our first race will be the long distance test over 6km in Leipzig (Germany) in the pair and we also have to row a 2km erg-test.
WR: Did you have any trials while you were in Sabaudia?
SS: No, there were no trials. We used the camp to train with the whole national team and to provide a good basis for the coming season.
WR: How would you describe the dynamics of the men’s eight members?
SS: I would say that we're friends, but a professional crew hasn't to be good friends. Everybody has to respect the others - with all strengths and weaknesses.
WR: Last year you were second in Germany for Team of the Year. Are you recognised in the street or in some situations? Have you received more media attention since this?
SS: The team of the Year is decided by all German sport journalists - it's a system in which the journalists can give points for different qualities. The voting is published as a TV Show and so we got a little bit more media attention, but not a much as the German Soccer Team. At the beginning of the season last year we had no sponsor and cooperated with the ‘Deutsche Sporthilfe.’ This cooperation gave us much more media attention. One short story I can tell you: one morning I went to the bakery and the baker asked me if I'm one of the German eight. This was the first time I was recognised.
WR: What do you like to do when you’re not rowing or training?
SS: I just moved and when I'm not rowing I "like" to do some housework. And when I've finally finished moving, I'm looking forward to reading, or baking and cooking...
WR: Do you have a favourite book or movie?
SS: I'm a big fan of the 007 James Bond movies - there's no cooler spy :) And my favourite books are Simon Beckett's stories of Dr. David Hunter (he's a forensic anthropologist).
WR: If you weren’t rowing what do you think you would be doing?
SS: Is there any time without rowing? :) If there is any free time I want to travel all over the world: the US, Australia, the Maldives...
WR: Is your current goal the 2012 Olympic Games?
SS: We focused the last two years on our big goal: the 2012 Olympics in London. On our way to London we have several ‘smaller’ goals: the national trials, the World Cup regattas and also the World Championships.
WR: What about after 2012, do you think you will continue at the elite rowing level?
SS: First of all I want to continue my studies. If that works out well I would like to continue rowing, maybe after one or two years without rowing.
WR: Do you see yourself doing masters rowing in years to come?
SS: Rowing in some kind of way for sure but I don't know if I'm going to do masters rowing. I will support my home club, Mainzer Ruder Verein.