Ollie Zeidler on life in lockdown

Row360 catches up with the German men's singles world champion

2 minute read
Interview Benedict Tufnell
Published 08.04.20

Twenty three-year old German Olli Zeidler is the reigning world and European champion in the men’s single.

Photo Olli Zeidler (centre) on the podium after winning the 2019 World Rowing Championships in the M1x
Credit Benedict Tufnell
Where are you now? 

I moved to my girlfriends house in Munich last week. We have an erg so I can spend time with her and can continue training. 

Are you allowed to train on the water? 

As of about five days ago I can train on the water again, but it has to be alone of course. Before that I was not allowed to go on the water at all for about two weeks. I wrote to the authorities in Bavaria to explain that I don’t have contact with anyone when I train in my single and they gave me permission to go back out on the water as long as the authorities at the Munich regatta course allowed it, which they did. So I am pretty lucky. 

How did you find out that the Tokyo Olympics was being postponed? 

I was at lunch with my family at home when my phone wouldn’t stop ringing as I started to receive  messages from everyone I knew. So I checked the news and the first headline was that the Olympics were postponed. It was a bit of a shock because the IOC had just told us four days earlier that Tokyo would be taking place in July as long as there was nothing new communicated by the World Health Organisation. Then four days later the opposite happened.  

Photo Olli Zeidler on the start at World Rowing Cup II in Poznan Poland.
Credit Benedict Tufnell
Were you expecting the games to be postponed? 

It was the day before I think that Canada and Australia said they would not send teams to the Olympic Games. That was the first sign for me that the IOC might actually cancel. Before that there was no doubt from my side that the games could take place in July. 

How has it effected you? 

Well firstly my whole training plan has had to be scrapped because there is nothing I am training for this year. Having to go a whole year without competing is also going to be difficult. I also wanted to study after the games and continue my masters degree. This is not possible now because I have to to train for the Olympics next year. Then I planned to travel for about six weeks after the Olympics this summer which is also not possible now. So there is a lot of small plans as well as big ones which will have to change. I think there is more uncertainty in my personal world at the moment then there was before the postponement. 

What is your approach to training now? 

At the moment I am continuing pretty much with my training as it would have been, but doing more on the erg because I want to minimise travel to the lake. With the restrictions in place it is hard just to move to the next street let alone drive to the regatta course. So I only go on the water about three times a week. The rest of the time I am on the erg or go running. Besides weightlifting, I can do everything I would have normally done. We have some small weights at home, so I do a lot of reps, but I can’t do any big weights. The remaining months are not planned yet. I will probably keep the speed work up for the next two months and then take a bigger break before I start a long period of preparing for the next season. I don’t think there will be any other races this year. But we will see. 

Photo Olli Zeidler at the 2019 World Rowing Championships
Credit Benedict Tufnell
Could the extra year of training be seen as an advantage for you? 

I think its a very difficult situation at the moment. I think the ones who come through the next few months without going crazy while being stuck at home and who actually are able to row and improve their technique on the water. These people will have an advantage and I am glad to be able to get out on the water myself now. So it could be an advantage, but it really depends on what all the other guys can do or are able to do. That will be a big factor in who does well in Tokyo I think. 

Do you see the lockdown being relaxed in Germany any time soon? 

I am hoping it will after Easter. Possibly April 20th. A lot of people here are already arguing that we should be relaxing the restrictions.