Get to know these four new Olympic rowing faces
With the Olympics just over 140 days away, the various qualification and selection events have started to narrow the field of rowers to the final, lucky athletes who will be called Olympians. For this Olympic Friday feature, World Rowing caught up with a few athletes who qualified through the African Continental Qualification Regatta.
Maike Diekmann – women’s single sculls – Namibia
Diekmann finished first at the event to secure her spot in the women’s single sculls for Namibia at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Diekmann first started rowing in 2015 at Rhodes University Rowing Club (RURC) in Grahamstown, South Africa. She worked her way up in the field, with her first international race at the 2019 Paolo D’Aloja Regatta in Piediluco, Italy. The event is her favourite rowing memory.
“I had such a great regatta” she says. “After that weekend of racing, I went back home with a lot more confidence and I slowly started to believe that I was capable of doing event great things and racing amongst the top women in rowing.”
Diekmann is currently training in South Africa at the TUKS Rowing Club. She says qualifying for the Olympics is a dream come true. “I have always loved watching the Olympic Games as a young girl, but never thought I would be among those athletes one day competing at the pinnacle sporting event of the world.” Diekmann will be the first rower from Namibia to compete and she says she is proud to represent her small nation at the Games.
Nour El Houda Ettaieb and Khadija Krimi – lightweight women’s double sculls - Tunisia
Together Ettaieb and Krimi qualified the lightweight women’s double for Tunisia at the African Continental Qualification Regatta. The double has been rowing on and off together since 2013 when they competed in the junior women’s double sculls.
Ettaieb started rowing in Tunisia back in 2010. She says that her favourite rowing memories are all related to winning and that is what motivates her to keep going. Ettaieb is currently training in Essen, Germany. “Qualifying for the Olympic Games is a dream come true!” Ettaieb says. “Especially after a tough long season with injury.” This will be her second Olympic Games.
Krimi started in sports at the age of three, but spent much of her time competing in swimming. After her coach introduced her to rowing, she ran with it.
“I’ve experienced highs and lows,” Krimi says. “But my best memories are those that come after much sacrifice.” Krimi describes competing as an open weight and then returning to lightweight and setting the Tunisian indoor rowing record.
After an intense year, Krimi and Ettaieb had an emotional qualification regatta. “We succeeded in beating the Algerians for the first time in the final of the qualification regatta, after finishing second behind them by two seconds in the heat. It was the first time I cried tears of joy,” Krimi says. “I understood what it means to believe in your dreams.”
Peter Purcell-Gilpin – men’s single sculls – Zimbabwe
Hailing from Zimbabwe and rowing in the men’s single sculls is Peter Purcell-Gilpin. Purcell-Gilpin qualified the boat with a second-place finish at the African Qualification Regatta, but still faces national trials in April.
Purcell-Gilpin says he started rowing back in 2006 in school, but at first it was mostly coxing. “I was a scrawny kid,” he says. “But then I grew a bit and have been working on getting to the Olympics ever since.” He is particularly well-known for sitting on top of an elephant holding a single sculls, which says is one of his top rowing memories.
While currently training in Australia with Sydney University Boat Club, Purcell-Gilpin will return to the United Kingdom in April for trials and training at Molesey Boat Club. “Going to the Olympics has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. It’s so much more than just a race. But I am only halfway there. I am very excited that I have secured a spot for Zimbabwe to be at the games, as far as I know it’s currently the only sport to have qualified.”
Following his Olympic campaign Pucell-Gilipin is hoping to figure out his next goal. But he also says, “I got married a year ago and we still haven’t managed to fit in a honeymoon, so we plan on having a bit of a holiday after the Games.”
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