Barcelona 1992 – train – eat – sleep – repeat
- Spain, my second home. We lived 30 minutes away from the venue. I rowed once on the lake of Banyoles, when I was 16. My mom and dad thought it would be a great way to help me visualize my rowing quest.
- I had the best coach teaching me the most efficient technique: Harry Mahon.
- High altitude camp was not ideal for a young 20 year old. I needed more mileage rather than benefiting from high altitude training that restricts training volume.
- At age 20, I was kind of a phenomenon to be going to the Olympics in the single scull. I did not care.
- I had the caliber of winning bronze based on the regattas leading up to the Olympics. I had beaten the Polish single sculler Kajejtan Broniefski who ended up winning the 1992 Bronze medal.
- It was extremely tough to miss out on the final by half a boat length behind Erik Verdonk who finished with bronze four years earlier at the Seoul Olympics in 1988.
- My dad had cancer in 1992. He told me he might not make it till the next Olympics and now would be a great time to get a medal. Hearing it did not stress me. It makes me sad I could not deliver, but I know he felt that I will have future success.
- In the year leading up to Barcelona, I studied at Brown University. Scott Roop was our freshman coach. Scott won the lightweight single scull world championship in Munich in 1981. He understood what it took to get us fit. I learned a lot from racing with Brown University and implemented that intensity into my single scull races.
- I was recruited to Brown because of the keen eye of Steve Gladstone who at that time was Brown University’s head coach.
- After missing the finals by half a deck, I was told to meet up for a live interview for Swiss TV. I was told where to go and no one told me to be careful about what I was going to say. I was asked questions by a TV journalist well known for his colorful commentary and humor. Either he just knew EXACTLY what buttons to push or I made it extremely obvious for him ?. I told Switzerland on live TV that “I the small lion cub was eaten up by the big lions and that winning in Atlanta, USA will be so much better, boom.” This type of response is not very Swiss. Luckily I lived up to my own words. Phew. https://youtu.be/lERFPiDcxVY
Atlanta 1996 train – eat – sleep – repeat – and DO NOT SPEAK TO JOURNALISTS
- A US transformation: Brown to Newport Beach. I graduated from Brown University in 1995. My boat builder and world champion, Joerg Weitnauer told me to find the great weather of Southern California to get ready for the Atlanta Olympics. Not only did I find great weather but my wonderful wife Erin as well!
- Moving from New England to California was awesome. Driving across the country with my friend Henry, we stopped at the Grand Canyon, walked down and up in one day. (which I do not advise!)
- I met my future wife in April of 1996. I invited her to come watch the Olympic regatta. We got married on September 24, 1996!
- I trained alone in the Newport Beach Harbor. Every six weeks my great coach Marty Aitken would fly out from Switzerland and stay with me for 10 days. It was great. We worked on the water in the morning and rode our road bikes in the afternoon. He really made me enjoy training.
- I loved riding my bike along the Pacific Ocean to get my legs as fit as possible for the Olympics. It is amazing, looking back, how much I trained on my own with my mind completely locked on the goal. Even writing these sentences I wince at the memory of putting in day after day of training, knowing that if I did not put in 100% quality work that my freedom of training anywhere in the world would be taken away from me.
- Atrial fibrillation in April! I did not know what was happening to me when I was fixing dinner. All of a sudden I felt my heart move in my chest. Because I was highly trained, the usual higher heart rate with atrial fibrillation did not manifest. My resting heart rate was in the low 30s. With the added Afib, I would be around 50 at most at rest. It was only the next day that I found out that I could not move fast. There was not enough blood being pumped through my muscles. That same day, I was “cardioverted” by Dr. Dicron Baron. Dr. Baron, it so happened, had treated my future brother-in-law. It is a small world.
- DO NOT SPEAK TO JOURNALISTS!!!! This was a great order by Marty Aitken. He knew me. I gave answers without a filter 100 percent of the time. Journalists knew that and that is what made it exciting for them to ask me questions about a sport few really followed. Thanks to Marty, I did not get distracted by the journalists who would ask me questions I would never ask myself. Journalists often ask the “what if” questions….. In the mind of an athlete, there are no “what ifs”. It is all or nothing, life or death, black or white.
- Here is my personal narration of the single scull final at the Atlanta Olympics https://youtu.be/Vh1llni-Oi8
Sydney 2000 Family man – Erin – Georgia – Xeno – and Mimi!
- Traveling with family. At this point Erin, my wife, and I had two little kiddos, Georgia and Xeno. We asked Mimi, Erin’s mom to travel with us. Us five spent 3 weeks in Murwillumbah, next to the Tweed River, training with the rest of the Swiss Olympic Team.
- I would train at 7AM and noon, so this way I had the afternoon free for looking around Australia with the family.
- This being my third Olympics, I felt at home. The boat was running beautifully well. I was confident, physically ready to go all the way.
- As luck had it, all week during the Olympics I had a slight morning sore throat and a little bit of a dry cough in the evening. No idea where all that came from. Never did I EVER drink hot tea in the morning at the regatta venue before going to train.
- Breaking the boat! The top part of my single’s bow collapsed when I set the boat in the water… I forgot to open the bow airshaft when I lowered the single scull into the water to go for a training row. The cold water created a depressurization in the airtight bow and made the top of the boat crack and collapse. Luckily Melchior Burgin fixed it so well and in time for my first race.
- Thanks to being ultra ready and fit, I was able to salvage a silver medal in the end. My friend Rob Waddell, who won the gold medal was trailing me at the 1500 meter mark by half a bow. I was moving amazingly well. Rob and I were leading third by over 5 seconds at 500 meters to go. And then I exploded. The TV commentators thought Rob was pulling ahead but it was the opposite. I drastically slowed down. Rob won by 2 seconds, and I just barely avoided getting 4th. In those final meters before the finish line, I thought of my father and everyone else who told me me, “just don’t come in 4th” it is a thankless ranking. So I fought as hard as I could. I feel so lucky to have gotten silver.
- I only raced one regatta before the Sydney Olympics. It was a World Cup race in Vienna with all participants I was going to meet again in Sydney. I won against Rob then. I had a sprint. I had ZERO sprint for reaching gold, but good enough for taking silver. It is all good.
- I left the Sydney Olympics after racing was done. Therefore, my “bed” in the village for the second week was empty. I wanted our physiotherapist Frans Rompen, who was part of the Olympic team, with FULL ACCREDITATION , to have my spot. But for some weird reason he was not allowed…. I never got an explanation why that was. This angered me. A few months later, when a US journalist for the Rowing News asked me about the Sydney Olympics, I called the chief of the Swiss Olympic Committee a very bad name… The news traveled over to Switzerland and I had to do the mature thing and say that my choice of words was not appropriate ?.
- Here is my personal narration of the single scull final at the Sydney Olympics: https://youtu.be/xI6iszF-rKI
- Good quality recap: https://youtu.be/Avpsj09yni0
Do you have questions or comments, I invite you to leave them here, I look forward to responding.
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