Athlete of the Month - July 2012
World Rowing: Where are you at present and where will you be for the month of July?
Juliane Rasmussen: Today, the 1st of July, the Danish Olympic team arrived at Hotel Krone in Völkermarkt, Austria. We will go directly to London from here. We stay here until going to the Olympics on the 25th of July. It’s the 7th time I’m spending my summer here, so it feels like coming home when I arrive here.
WR: What is your background in rowing?
JR: A friend of mine had a brother in the local rowing club and I had just stopped horseback riding. My friend and I went to the club together. We had a lot of fun rowing on the sea in the big boats. But then I tried the racing boats. I loved the speed in those boats and I lost my heart to the sport.
WR: What made you decide to continue in the sport to an elite level?
JR: I had a coach in my club who believed in me! I rowed my first regatta in the single at age 17. I thought it was too late to get into elite rowing. At the regatta I was in the middle of the field with the more experienced girls. Even though I didn’t win a medal, it got me hooked.
WR: You have been a regular at indoor rowing competitions and hold some records - what are they?
JR: Because of bad weather conditions in Denmark we use the ergs a lot during the winter and in the summertime a lot of wind often forces us to use the ergs. I’m better at the longer distances and have a record from a competition in Amsterdam, the Ergohead: 5431m in 20min (a 1:50.4 split). My one-hour record is 1:54.1 split/500m. My fastest 2km is 7:04.0, set at the Danish National Championships in 2007.
WR: Are you a full-time athlete?
JR: In the Olympic season I am almost a full-time athlete. I work eight hours a week in a kindergarten focused on sport. Together with former Olympic rower Sarah Lauritzen, and two other partners, I’m a partner in “Athletes Own Sportswear” making rowing clothes.
WR: You have been the mainstay in the lightweight double for Denmark, how does the double get selected?
JR: We are selected by the national team coach. After 2009 I needed a partner for the double and I asked (by email) Anne (Lolk Thomsen), who had just had stopped kayaking. I asked her if she would try to qualify for the Olympics in the double with me. We started from scratch with the technique, but Anne was strong and in good shape and she had the drive. It was a wild, but a very motivating project. In February 2011 we were the strongest lightweight women and we were selected for the national team. Anne’s very first time sculling was together with me, three years ago.
WR: When were you selected to be the lightweight double for the London Olympics?
JR: Since we were selected for the national team we have had a good idea that we would be the crew. We felt like we were selected when we qualified the boat by finishing eighth in Bled at the World Rowing Championships in 2011. We have had a good season so far in 2012. It was very low key when we got officially selected.
WR: What is the interest like in Denmark leading up to the Olympics? Has there been media interest in you and Anne?
JR: Because of the unusual partnership with Anne being a former Olympic kayaker, we have had some good interest from the media and now we can feel the interest rising, that the Olympics are just around the corner.
WR: Are you a natural lightweight or do you work at getting to weight?
JR: I think I am a natural lightweight rower – too small to be good among the heavyweights but, of course, I have to lose weight in some periods.
WR: What do you do to get your mind off rowing?
JR: After having Vera, who is now two years old, my favourite things to do is spend time with our little family, with her and Mads (Rasmussen from the Danish lightweight men’s double sculls). We have Vera and my mother with us on camps, which is perfect to get my mind a bit off rowing.
WR: Describe your typical day at present.
JR: We wake up at 7am if Vera allows us but often earlier. Then we eat breakfast all together if the night has been good and the wake-up wasn’t too early. We leave home at 8.30am where we go to the kindergarten with Vera on our way to the lake. If we train twice we stay at the rowing centre eating lunch and resting before the next training. Around 15:30 we pick up Vera and go home to the rowing club (DSR, Danske Studenters Roklub/ Danish students rowing club) where we live, in an apartment on the top of the club.
World Rowing: As you are currently on a training camp in Völkermarkt, Austria, are you aware of the Olympic Games coming up or do you feel quite removed from it?
Juliane Rasmussen: I feel quite removed from it here in Völkermarkt, but I don’t think it’s on purpose. We always go on camps before championships. We read Danish newspapers on the web following Danish athletes in their preparations, but now it is the Tour de France that takes the picture.
WR: How much awareness do you have of news coming out of London about the Olympics?
JR: Not that much. My two-year-old daughter does a great job taking my attention when we are off the water. But we do discuss the interesting news during the meals. And I do surf the net for news now and then.
WR: What has been your hardest training session/day so far this month?
JR: I think it was yesterday when we rowed 4 x 5 minutes against Henrik Stephansen our lightweight champion in the single. In the evening we rowed 12 x 30 seconds all out.
WR: How much planning so far have you done towards how you will race in London?
JR: I think we will take all the good stuff from our World Cup races mixed with all what we have learnt from this camp. For us it is quite simple, we just row as fast as possible from start to finish.
WR: How would you describe the feeling in these last few days before the Games start compared to what it feels like before a World Rowing Championship regatta?
JR: It will be the end of the journey Anne (Lolk Thomsen) and I started three years ago in October 2009. It has been a very good and educating journey so far and we hope for a good finish.
WR: Having competed at Athens and Beijing, how do you think this will help you for the London Olympics?
JR: It’s good to know the Olympic set-up, but the competition is fortunately almost like the championships.
WR: Your partner, Anne Lolk Thomsen comes from Olympic kayaking. What does she bring from her sport that has helped your rowing combination?
JR: Anne is a very dedicated and serious athlete and she brought a lot power and energy into the project. Anne’s huge strength from doing a lot of weights really help us in the first 500m. Furthermore she was used to a lot of training and never got injured.
WR: You said that you asked Anne to row with you. How did you pick her?
JR: I read in the newspaper that she had stopped her kayaking career because she didn’t believe it possible to qualify for London. She missed the qualification for Beijing. As a former kayak marathon rower the 500m was too short. I thought that the 2000m would be just perfect for her.
WR: What do you remember about your first row together?
JR: I do remember my first “row” with Anne very clearly. I wasn’t rowing. I just tried to keep the balance with my oars flat on the water. I said to myself “I hope it will be better next time”.
WR: Will your daughter Vera be coming to the Olympics? What does she know about what you and Mads (Rasmussen from the Danish lightweight men’s double sculls) are doing?
JR: Vera will be in Denmark at my parents’ house during the Games. She couldn’t stay with us in the Olympic village so we decided that it would be the best solution for all of us. My mother has been with us on every camp with Vera, so they know each other very well. Vera’s life is filled with rowing, she lives in a rowing club and she has been with us on every camp since she was three month old. When we go to the gym in the club she knows exactly how to do the rowing machines.
WR: Do you ever watch Mads race?
JR: I always watch Mads’ races - from the water while we are cooling down. And he always watches our start from the warm-up zone.
WR: As you and Mads are both rowers, do you talk a lot about rowing when you’re together, or not?
JR: Some days we talk a lot about rowing, and some days not at all.
WR: Do the two of you ever row together?
JR: Anne and I have learned a lot of rowing from Rasmus Quist and Mads, while they have taken us out in two doubles and one time in a quad. The last time I rowed with Mads in the double it went well. Of course I was impressed by the speed, but he was impressed as well. And he said that I was his best doubles partner except for Rasmus!
WR: What are your rowing plans for after the Olympics and beyond?
JR: Actually, I have no exact plans. But I do expect Vera to have a sister in the near future.
WR: What do you think you’ll be doing the day after your racing finishes in London?
JR: Relaxing and enjoying the Olympic Games.
WR: Any other sports that you’re hoping to see?
JR: We have only two days in London after the finals. But if it is possible I would like to see some athletics or I’ll be cheering for the Danish athletes in action.