BY CHIP DAVIS
PHOTO BY PETER SPURRIER
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In 2019, when he was also named “Male Athlete of the Year,” we wrote “casual rowing fans can be forgiven for not knowing who Oliver Zeidler is. The German swimmer-turned-sculler hadn’t taken a stroke prior to 2016, and 2019 was only his second full season on the international stage.” Well, there’s no excuse for not knowing the big guy now. He won the 2022 World Rowing Championships going away with his short-looking strokes (which are actually longer than most everyone else’s owing to his long limbs and overall height).
The man from Munich told World Rowing that this year would be all about having fun and gathering energy for the next two years, culminating in the Paris 2024 Olympics. The 26-year-old calls Ondrej Synek and Olaf Tufte his role models, which is bad news for opponents. If Zeidler has anything near the success of those two sculling greats, it will be several Olympic cycles before anyone else has a chance.
The 2022 world champion was the only German to race at this year’s Belgrade World Rowing Cup, doing so to prepare for next year’s 2023 World Rowing Championships, which serve as the main Olympic-qualification regatta. Belgrade is also where Zeidler made his international-level sculling debut, racing Synek twice—“of course, I lost,” he said—but showing the world his potential.
The disappointment of the Tokyo Olympics semifinal race in which he failed to qualify for the grand final challenged the still-young Olympian and led to his realizing “there is more than rowing. There are friends around you and other possibilities next to sport.” Then he went on to win the world championships and establish himself as the man to beat in Paris.