Athlete of the Month – December 2017
Swiss single sculler Jeannine Gmelin was named the 2017 World Rowing Female Crew of the Year for her phenomenal season that saw her power to her first World Championship gold making her the fastest woman single sculler in the world. We ask the 27-year-old what’s behind her success and what’s coming next.
World Rowing: Why do you think this was your year to become the World Champion in the single sculls
Jeannine Gmelin: The year turned out quite a bit different to what I imagined it in the beginning. My main goal was to step up from the 2016 season. In February this year, our new head coach, Robin Dowell, joined the Swiss Rowing Federation and working with him has made me a better athlete in every way, which in the end might have been the main reason - together with all the work I’ve put in the previous years - why I had such a successful year.
WR: Can you talk us through the women’s single sculls final at the World Rowing Championships?
JG: I do not remember much of the race. The conditions were tough with the crosswind and, sitting at the start line, I remember thinking about how important it will be to accept that there will be a few bad strokes. Once I was in the race I really just focused on executing my race plan. Coming into the last 30 strokes I realised that I was leading and that the no one could take the win away. That feeling, together with the crowd cheering for all of us, was incredible and something I will never forget.
WR: What did it feel like to know you had won?
JG: That exact moment is a mix of so many emotions and hard to put into words. Pure joy and happiness, a feeling of relief as well as gratefulness.
WR: Why did you choose the single sculls?
JG: I am not the one who chooses which boat I row in. We have to go through a selection process with the whole team. Then the Federation together with the head coach sets out the boats and combinations for the season. The heavyweight women’s team of Swiss Rowing is quite small and that is why I’ve been in the single the past few years. What I like about the single is that you are kind of your own boss. You have to face your weaknesses and be very honest with yourself. That can be brutal sometimes but it is what makes it so appealing to me.
WR: You’re not particularly tall for a single sculler. Do you have to work differently to find your power and speed?
JG: I am not the tallest, indeed but I train very similar to everyone else in the team.
WR: Where do you find your motivation?
JG: To be doing what I love most - day in, day out - is a huge privilege and that fact itself keeps me motivated so much. The journey to become a better athlete and a better person by working hard every day is what keeps me going and its what drives me forward.
WR: Where do you train and what is it like?
JG: I train at the national training center in Sarnen, which is based near Lucerne. The lake we train on is 5.5km long and has not much traffic. Normally the water is quite flat and even if the conditions get rougher we are able to row. So the set-up here is really unique. In my opinion, we are very lucky to train at what is for me the most beautiful place in the world.
WR: What will you do over the winter?
JG: Even though the temperatures can go below zero we still go rowing as long as the lake is not frozen and if that is the case our coach is more than happy to see us training on the erg. Luckily we can also switch to cross country skiing which makes a good change.
WR: What is your next big goal?
JG: To keep improving in every aspect possible and prepare myself as well as I can to put me in a position to win an Olympic medal in Tokyo (2020 Olympics).
WR: What is the biggest challenge you have had to overcome – in sport or in life?
JG: As strange as it might sound, looking back on my life I can not see any major challenge that I had to overcome. There have been a few stumbling blocks but every one of them has taught me an important lesson, which helped me to learn and grow.
WR: What do you do when you’re not rowing?
JG: I like to spend time with my family and my friends. Having coffee and a good chat is something I enjoy a lot. I love to be out in nature, especially up in the mountains. Sleeping is also high up the list of things I do when I am not rowing.
WR: Your Instagram profile says you’re passionate about food – can you tell us more?
JG: I see food as the fuel that keeps my body working properly and keeps it healthy and that is why it has a certain importance to me. But I relate food to social activities too. The combination of good food and good company is hard to beat. And last but not least I really do like to cook and bake. Trying new recipes allows me to discover new things and also forces me to use my creativity.