Zeidler’s on a fast track to the top of rowing
In February 2017 Oliver Zeidler ended his swimming career. Just a year and a half later he stood on the medals podium at the World Rowing Cup I in Belgrade with a bronze medal being placed around his neck.
This is part of the phenomenal rise of Germany’s newest national team rower. A rise that began just a handful of months after Zeidler, 22, took up rowing and saw him win the open men’s indoor rowing competition at the 2017 World Games. His time; 5:42.0.
Zeidler was already known in Germany for his multiple German Championship titles in swimming - the sport he began as a seven-year-old. But with rowing genes in his family, it may have been inevitable that he eventually stepped into a boat.
In swimming, Zeidler preferred sprint distances such as 50m and 100m freestyle and butterfly, so it was quite a switch when turning to rowing.
“The swimming events I competed in are not really comparable to a 2k rowing race in any way,” Zeidler says. But after many of his close friends and teammates from swimming retired, Zeidler decided it was time for something new.
As a swimmer Zeidler rowed on the indoor rower about once a week as a cross-training tool. Moving to become a rower, Zeidler was not about to set his sights low. “After the success at the 2017 German Erg Championships, where I won the gold against the 2012 Olympic Champion Tim Grohmann, I was really excited about what I’m capable of in the boat. I set the goal to become part of the German national team within one year and started daily rowing training,” Zeidler says.
Zeidler finished third at the 2018 German small boat championships which earned him a spot on the national team in the men’s single sculls to compete at World Rowing Cup I. When he lined up for the heats in Belgrade, it marked the fourth 2km race of his entire career.
Zeidler says he can draw on his swimming experience to propel him in the rowing world. “The most obvious similarity is the connection to water. If you have a feeling for it and understand how to create speed by using the element, you will benefit in both sports. Endurance is maybe the most important part in both disciplines. The main difference is the length of a rowing race, which is not comparable to any swimming event. As a sprinter it was even more difficult for me finishing a race which takes eight times longer than 100m freestyle in the pool,” Zeidler says.
But Zeidler has another advantage – he comes from a rowing family. His grandfather was an Olympic Champion at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, his father was also a competitive rower and is now his personal coach and his sister is also rowing on the German national team.
“As my whole family is into rowing, everyone was quite happy about this step and I became another rower in the family line next to my sister Marie. With respect to my family and their connections to rowing it was more surprising that I stayed that long out of a boat.”
The stakes are definitely high for this young athlete, but he has the determination to succeed. “Within the last 1.5 years, I concentrated on everything rowing related together with my dad, who is my personal coach. The combination of hard work and the personal attention made this unique development possible. My tip is: have the courage to try something new and just enjoy the progress.”