What happened to … Xeno Mueller
In the 1990s, Xeno Mueller was on the top of the international rowing scene. His name stands among the rowing greats like Perti Karppinen, Rob Waddell and Olaf Tufte. The Swiss sculler is one of the few able to claim two Olympic medals in the men’s single sculls.
Mueller started young. He first competed at the 1990 World Rowing Junior Championships in the men’s single where he finished third. Two years later, at 20-years-old, he was at his first Olympic Games in the men’s single finishing twelfth.
Just four years later, Mueller was on top of the podium at the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996. The victory was only slightly sweet. As Mueller recounts, “shortly after breaking the Olympic record and winning gold, I thought of my father who did not get to watch it happen live.”
Over time, Mueller realised his favourite memory came in the form of a silver medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. “Sharing my Olympic silver medal victory with my family in Australia,” remembers Mueller. “Crying and laughing after rowing in front of the grandstand and recognising people who had known me as a kid and having witnessed me overcoming my greatest challenge in rowing.”
Mueller retired shortly after the 2000 Olympic Games, but he looks back fondly on the time he spent rowing internationally.
“I think back about optimal efficiency, gliding during races and while training on glassy water, during clear rays or foggy winter days. I hear the voices of my coaches, reminding me how to remain efficient, to hit the gold medal standard times at different stroke rates. I loved the endless training sessions that gave me a sense of freedom,” Mueller says.
Since his time training, Mueller says life has changed dramatically. He now lives in California, USA and coaches rowing at Newport Beach and worldwide online. He has married and became the father of four children.
“All the energy I had when I was competitive that was laser focused on moving the 14.5 kg needle I sat on to glide as fast as possible, is now redirected to staying healthy, being there for my family and making others reach their rowing dreams,” says Mueller.
Mueller stays active, rowing mostly on a WaterRower (indoor rowing machine), just to keep healthy. He also swims and uses resistance training. But his real goal is to help young rowers around the world achieve their dreams. He attributes his success to being coached by some of the world’s top coaches. His biggest advice to young rowers is to find the right coaching information.
“Understanding technique and training intensities is what brings an athlete to the highest echelons of competition,” Mueller says.
But Mueller also recognises the need to help the sport and its athletes moving forward.
“Love it or hate it, it is good for the health of our sport that we are not overtaken by corporate money,” he says.
Mueller realises that this can make it difficult for athletes training full-time to have sufficient income.
“Athletes need to have enough income to build a family while they are competitively rowing. At the same time, we need to make sure that another career is built in tandem so that the end of the competitive career does not become an earth-shattering event.”
Looking back to his own retirement from rowing and forward to his future, Mueller acknowledges his family’s support. “My wife has the patience of a saint,” he says. “She is the reason why my kids love being a family.”
And Mueller says he has no regrets. “I am where I am because of the steps I took. I am happy where I am. There is still a lot to do. I go to bed at night and my last thought before I fall asleep is the opportunity the new day has.”