Athlete of the Month – January 2013

Hearing about the Danish lightweight men’s four winning at the 1996 Olympics, 11-year-old Fie Udby Erichsen vowed that she wanted to go to the Olympic Games. Sixteen years later she lined up at the start of the London Olympics women’s single sculls final. Eight minutes later she had become an Olympic silver medallist.

Coming from a nation where lightweight rowing dominates, Fie is showing the Danes that their country also has talent amongst the heavyweights. She has remained focused, dedicated and optimistic despite setbacks along the way and for this World Rowing welcomes Fie as the first Athlete of the Month for 2013.

Part I

World Rowing: Where are you at present?
Fie Udby Erichsen:
In Copenhagen, but my plan is to move to another part of Denmark. I have just sold my house and so everything is chaotic. I am going to live back where I grew up as I want to be close to my parents and my husband’s parents. I started rowing there (Haubro) and it is a really good place to row (the town is built on a fjord).

WR: Did you move to Copenhagen originally for rowing?
Yes, nine years ago, to be near to the national training centre.

WR: What inspired you to start rowing?
The gold medal in the lightweight men’s four at the 1996 Olympic Games (the first Games that included lightweight rowing). I heard it on the radio and I started (rowing) at school straight away. I was 11 years old. I started because I wanted to go to the Olympics.

WR: You’ve had a couple of attempts at the Olympics. Tell us about this.
Yes, my partner (in the pair) got injured so in 2007 I got a new partner. We were really close (to qualifying for the Olympics at the World Rowing Championships) in 2007 but we missed out by half a second. Then we tried in 2008 (at the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta) and were one place away from qualifying. At that time I decided I never wanted to go to another Final Olympic Qualification Regatta because there’s a few happy people and everyone else is devastated. Around the boat park you can feel it; there are so few happy people.

WR: So what made you go through the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta in 2012?
In 2010 I suffered a prolapsed disc (back injury) and it got worse and I couldn’t row at Karapiro (World Rowing Championships venue). I was out for more than half a year so I decided my place at the 2011 Worlds (which was also the first chance at 2012 Olympic qualification) wasn’t my standard. (Fie finished 14th). I hadn’t been doing long distance and short distance training, so I knew I had a lot of sprint and endurance training to do.

At the Worlds (2011) the water was bumpy and I had a hard time with my back, but because of my result in Lucerne (World Rowing Cup earlier in the season) where I was eighth, I knew that I could do better. I decided, with my coach, to keep on going. So I did a lot of cross training and bit by bit I could row like I used to. My erg scores started to get better and I was getting back to where I was before. Between the Worlds (2011) and the Olympics I never got sick or needed to take time off.

WR: How did you end up in the single?
In 2008 I decided that I wanted to continue for the next four years towards the Olympics and have no regrets. I quit my studies and I started to row as much as I could. I then decided that the single was the best way to go. Three weeks after I decided that I went to the European Championships (2010) and came fourth, so I saw that I had made a good decision.

WR: Have you been in a boat since the Olympics?
I went in the Head of the Charles (in October) and the selection races for Denmark for for the national team and the national championships so I’ve done quite a bit of rowing. But since the start of December there has been ice on the water so I can’t go out. But I’ve done some erg training about twice a week.

WR: And you are now pregnant, so how has your training fitted into your pregnancy?
Yes, I’m at 21 weeks. My plan is to feel my body so not to push it too hard. I’ve worked it out with my physio. I can’t pull as hard as I used to. I usually monitor my heart rate but lately it’s not much fun seeing it bounce up. I can’t monitor my heart the same as I used to, so I’ve stopped monitoring it as I couldn’t see the point.
I hope to continue training right through my pregnancy. I can still swimming and cycle and I’ll continue doing core training as much as I can. But I’ve stopped all weight training because I don’t feel that it’s useful at present.

WR: Do you use someone as a guide in terms of training while pregnant?
I’ve spoken to Julianne (Rasmussen, see ) and she told me it wasn’t a problem and it felt great the whole time. I just hope everything works out well.

WR: How is this month shaping up?
We have to be out of our house by 14 January. We’ve already moved everything that we want to keep so now I’ve just got my clothes and things to use before we move.


Part II

World Rowing: When we last talked you were preparing to move. How has the moving house gone?
Fie Udby Erichsen:
Everything has been really chaotic. Because of us selling our house I have moved to my brother’s spare room. I will be staying here for the next three months. After that I’m moving back to my hometown where we (my husband and I) have already moved all of our things. My husband has been living there since Christmas.  

WR: What is the first thing you set up in your new house?
The bedroom. Sleeping well is very important to me.

WR: Now that you are away from the national training centre, how will your training plan work?
When the baby is born I will continue the same training as I did last year. The difference will be that I will have to travel a lot. I will have a boat in Hobro and one in Copenhagen (where my coach lives). I will keep Mads Haubro as my coach. In Denmark, we cannot always decide who our coach is. That decision is for our team leader and Team Denmark to make. So hopefully we can keep our teamwork until the next Olympic Games.

WR: With your baby on the way, how do you see the next year unfolding in terms of your training plan?
Having a baby on the way of course will change things. But my husband promised to take good care of the baby when I’m away. I hope to go on one training camp in Avis, Portugal in the autumn and then get back on the Danish national team from 2014. So I will be rowing at all of the World Rowing regattas in 2014.

WR:  When do you think you will be racing next?
I will race at the Danish National Championship in 2013. I don’t know if I will be ready before that. I don’t know if I’ll be competing internationally this year. It would be very hard to get into the same form, so the plan is to be back the year after.