Athlete of the Month – October 2020
Twenty-nine-year-old German Hannes Ocik is a three-time World Champion in the men's eight and he just nabbed his seventh European Championship gold. Ocik tells us about balancing rowing with life as a policeman and how he wants to add Olympic gold to his stash.
World Rowing: Congratulations on your win at the European Rowing Championships. What was it like to be racing internationally again?
Hannes Ocik: It felt very special this year and we definitely needed this race. Personally, I had the feeling that this European Championship had a huge importance for everyone – all nations were highly motivated and happy to race.
WR: What at did you miss most about racing?
HO: We are sportsmen, we love to compete with each other – not only internally with our teammates, also with all these great rowers all over the world. This is what I have missed most during the last few months. Moreover, I have missed the feeling of the competitive atmosphere, this little excitement before racing, of being completely focused – and, of course, winning and hearing the German National Anthem with goose bumps on my arms.
WR: How have you been training this year - and has Covid-19 changed that at all?
HO: At the beginning of this year we were on our road to Tokyo. You could say Covid hit us when we were in our training camp in Portugal. Our team trainer decided to cut the last days of our camp and go as fast as we could back to Germany. In Germany we trained for a few weeks individually and did many kilometres on the ergometer and road bike. Then, we slowly moved back to our routine, respecting all official Covid rules. We started with training in the men’s pair and very small groups. During this time, the most frustrating thing was the uncertainty about whether competitions would take place or not.
And yes, all-in-all, Covid has changed everything this year. But as a team we committed to stick together and I am sure we will get through this extra year with more motivation than ever.
WR: Why did you choose rowing?
HO: In my childhood and my teenage days I tried many different sports: swimming, judo, triathlon. But in the end a friend of my mother's introduced me to the rowing world. I was taller and stronger than other guys my age so I tried it. After my first medal at a national competition, call it my first success, I developed a burning ambition and I fell in love with my sport. Even when you have hard days with shit weather and many sessions on the ergometer, there will be a priceless sunrise or a great training session on crystal clear water – moments why I love rowing. Being successful and winning titles also motivates me every single day. There is one medal missing in my collection, you know which one !
WR: What is your favourite rowing moment?
HO: After my first season in the men’s eight (2013), unfortunately I got sick very badly with glandular fever. In 2014 I was not able to row and missed my nomination for the team. But I did not give up and count my comeback in 2015 with my former rowing-partner Max Munski as my favourite rowing moment. We won a silver medal in the men’s pair on our national trails. Since then I have been the stroke in the men’s eight.
WR: How does the German men's eight stay so consistently successful?
HO: For ages the core of our team has been the same. I think this is one reason why we are such a well-established team. Another point is, that we really harmonise in the rhythm of rowing – all together, we are a perfect match. And, we train a lot.
WR: How do you balance being a policeman with your rowing?
HO: I am a policeman in my hometown Rostock (in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania). During the rowing season I am exempt from work. I work in my off-season, mostly the period after our seasonal competition highlight until the end of the year. I really appreciated this support and the opportunity to row in the national team and also have a job as a policeman.
WR: Do any rowing skills help with policing? Or does anything you have learned in the police help with your rowing?
HO: Rowing definitely helps working with different characters. Being a team player always helps you in your job. Moreover, following rules and being disciplined are two aspects I have learned from rowing that I also need in my profession as a policeman. And the other way around: As a policeman I have learned about a clear structure, a sense of responsibility and respect. This has also helped me in my rowing environment.
WR: What do you do to relax or have fun?
HO: I like good food. I like to try different restaurants or try to be a chef on my own and cook at home for myself. On top of that, I like to go for a walk with my little sausage dog Rudi or just chill and watch a great movie or Netflix series.
WR: Which sportsperson do you most admire?
HO: Back in my U23-years, Kristof Wilke, the former stroke of the men’s eight was definitely my role model. Nowadays, I admire people like the former track cyclist Kristina Vogel. She is not only the most successful German track cyclist, she is also a hero for me, because she handles her personal setback like no one else and always spreads positive vibes. We need more people like her in the world of sports.