What happened to … Katrin Rutschow-Stomporowski
Katrin Rutschow-Stomporowski is one of the rowing greats. Starting her career in the former East Germany (GDR) in the late 1980s, she worked her way from medals at the World Junior Championships to Olympic gold at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.
Rutschow-Stomporowski’s international career spanned 13 years and looking back on it, she would not change a thing. World Rowing caught up with Rutschow-Stomporowski to find out where she is now.
It was almost 16 years ago that Rutschow-Stomporowski won Olympic gold to culminate her successful rowing career in the women’s single sculls. In the time since, she has become a mother, changed careers and stayed close to the sport that influenced her life.
Rutschow-Stomporowski currently works part-time as an assistant tax consultant. She spends her mornings crunching numbers, but in the afternoon, she drives to the rowing club where she coaches the junior team.
“I try to think back to what I did. They don’t have to copy me, but I think what was good for me, can’t be bad for them. My main goal is to look individually at their strengths and what they enjoy doing,” says Rutschow-Stomporowski.
After a full day of work and coaching, Rutschow-Stomporowski returns home to spend time with her kids, twin boys aged 14.
“I make dinner for my kids and check to make sure they are doing their homework. They are both tall, but their motivation for rowing is not like mine was,” she says laughing.
Rutschow-Stomporowski’s motivation during her competitive years was exceptional. She was the first rower in her family and was identified in school for her height. In order to train and compete, she moved to Berlin.
“My family had different reactions,” she says. “It was in the time of the former GDR. My father said yes, you must do this, but my mother didn’t want it for me. She was against it. My grandmother, though, she collected everything that came in the press, watched everything on TV. She was so proud.”
Rutschow-Stomporowski remembers the Berlin wall coming down. Even though they were in the city, she says that they watched it happen on TV, but some of the older rowers went to see it.
“It did not have a big effect. The only question was, what can we do in the sport. We kept training with the same boats, same club, same coach,” she says.
Looking back on her rowing years, Rutschow-Stomporowski has fond memories. “I was happy with rowing and my home in Berlin,” she says. “There is not one specific event that I remember. It’s the way of life. I was able to win gold at the Olympics and I am very proud and happy about that. But looking back it’s the training camps, the everyday life that are the best memories. I was happy with my life and my sport in Berlin.”
Her link to the rowing world also keeps Rutschow-Stomporowski in contact with other German rowers. She says they meet up when they travel and often run into each other at rowing events. She says that she still enjoys watching the major rowing events and while she often cheers for Germany, but at heart she is cheering for the best rowers.
With an incredible passion for the sport that shaped her life, Rutschow-Stomporowski hopes to continue bringing rowing to the next generation. “It’s not easy to find rowers these days. The kids have longer school hours and less time for sport. But I hope I can coach many young rowers and give them some instructions for a better way forward.”
“My biggest advice for young rowers is to look for your strengths, build them and make them even better. You can look quickly at your weaknesses, but then just move on. Focus on your strengths and stay positive,” Rutschow-Stomporowski says.