row2k Features
Matthias Siejkowski
February 12, 2002
Verena Loch

by Verena Loch, translated from the German by Oli Rosenbladt

Verena Loch/row2k: Did you imagine ever breaking the record again? What was your goal for this event?

Matthias Siejkowski: After training as hard as I did recently, I actually hoped to score something around 5:38 or 5:39. Under perfect circumstances, I thought, I might seriously threaten Rob's record. However, I hadn't thought I'd actually smash it just like this. And yes, the goal was a world record, but I'd only have been disappointed had I been above 5:38.2. I suppose I set another bench mark for others to try harder. Getting close to those extreme results, every tenth of a second counts and hurts even more if I don't drop it, which is what motivates me a lot to push even harder, once I see the record close at hand.

row2k: Would you please describe the race?

MS: I kept the 500m at 1:24; 1:25, 1:25 and 1:23. That's an average of 1:24.2 over 2k. My opponents were elite national team members of Poland who had to qualify in several heats. Shortly after the 1000m mark I had difficulties keeping up the intense speed. That's when I got some help from outside: My former partner of 1993 (Polish Eight), Andrzej Krzepinski (who is now the chief of sport marketing for the Polish Rowing Federation), went ahead and yelled: "Wind it up, Maciej, wind it up!" Right in time with the rating, and again and again. At that point, I hardly felt strong enought to keep it up unless I would increase the stroke rate. Hearing the commentator's voice over the loudspeaker, I closed my eyes after 3.5 minutes and worked it up stroke by stroke.

Beforehands, I had prepared a note for myself and sticked it to the floor which said: "You can do it! Work with every stroke. No brains, just work!" Well, and then I stopped thinking about the pain and somehow there was the finish. I realized the score, broke down for a second, got treatment, but then managed to push away the paramedics. I rose up to new strength and got up again. Started dancing with joy, hugging and kissing everyone around.

row2k: At what point did you realize you were about to break Rob's record?

MS: At 1300m I went down to 1:23 (as I managed to peek through my right eye now and then). That's when I knew that I wasn't about to let it disappear any more. It appeared to me that this was THE day I had set the programme for. After all, it's just a head game. The psyche is the key to a successful competition. Of course, I had prepared both my body and my technique with a lot precision. I inherited a book from my father, called "Psychology between the Starting Line and the Finish." It's from the former GDR and excellent, I recommend it to every athlete.

row2k: What settings do you generally use for your races? How did you pre-set your display this time?

MS: I usually set the drag factor to 155-160. My stroke rate after settling down was around 36, and I could see 500m splits of 1:25.

row2k: How did you prepare for the race in Warsaw?

MS: It was a murderously professional three months.

row2k: Was this your main competition for this winter? What other races have you planned?

MS: Sure, this was the main event. Anyway, I will definitely also race in Tallin (Estonia) and Wroclaw (Poland) in January.

row2k: Since you hold dual citizenship of Poland and Germany, what country do you want to race for?

MS: Not an easy question, and not the most pleasant topic either. When I tried to explain to the my friends in Poland how I got treated in Germany for the last couple of years, their only comment was: "degeneracja kompletna!!!", and I think I don't have to translate this. The kind of immediate success that the German Rowing Federaces has produced at the 2001 Worlds in Lucerne do not reflect real state of what's going on there. I would comment more, but I would not want them to use it against me at any point. My friends, Bernhard Stomporowski and LRV-Berlin coach Thomas Jung also talk about, how can I say this, "deranged" people, whom you are dependent on as a rower. So, I'm not on any national squad at the moment. No further comment.

row2k: Why did you not row at the Olympics in Sydney?

MS: In the spring and summer of 2000 I had to make ends meet as a newly unemployed engineer, so I was very busy looking for work, and that had to be a priority. But my heart was bleeding while I watched the German men's sweep team have so much "success" in Sydney.

row2k: How much do you train? Do you do only ergs, or do you cross-train as well?

MS: In the peak training periods of October/November 2001, I was doing 19/20 hours per week. Everything else I think I'd like to keep a secret...

row2k: Who is your coach, and who writes your training programs?

MS: I do all that myself, I have 20 years of experience. >From time to time, people who know a little bit about rowing watch my technique, which is very important even on the erg, and give me valuable tips. In that area, you need outside input. I'm extremely grateful to all those who have supported me.

Row2k: A lot of rowers think they've peaked out at 25, and you've just turned 35. How do you keep getting better?

MS: I feel incredibly fit. Maybe that has something to do with my life philosophy, or my philosophy towards health. Remember, a corresponding lifestyle can extend (or shorten) the time interval of your highest vitality!

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