Instead of gold, rowers get tin: Zeidler’s family saga ends with total exhaustion

Everything is ready for the dream ending to the European Rowing Championships: Oliver Zeidler is aiming for gold on his home course in singles. On the very route where his grandfather won Olympic gold 50 years ago. But the grandson cannot continue the saga. Criticism and disappointment remain.

The loud, cheering cheering gives way to nervous shouts in the last 300 meters, a dramatic murmur sloshes over the grandstands to the left and right of the regatta course in Oberschleißheim. The very last race of the European Rowing Championship is developing into a real thriller. With a tragic protagonist who prompts the audience to react: Oliver Zeidler. The German had set his sights on gold and was determined to defend his title. But then he only finished fourth. Tin, no podium, no cheers. Instead, he dives down first, he’s “not doing well physically,” he says some time after the race. “I’m dizzy, I have a headache.”

While he is torturing himself, someone else has taken over his “living room”: Melvin Twellaar. The Dutchman is the new European champion – and that on Zeidler’s home and training course. The defeated German was born in Dachau in 1996, lives in Schwaig near Erding and trains every day in Oberschleißheim. And it is the track that fascinates the whole family. At the 1972 Olympic Games, his grandfather, Hans-Johann Färber, became Olympic champion in the coxed four. “Fifty years after the Olympic Games, things have come full circle and it’s of course very emotional for me because my grandfather won gold here, the greatest success of his career on the same track,” Zeidler said beforehand. “As a kid you looked at the medals and the Olympic books. I thought it was cool to see pictures of your grandfather in them.” And Färber had said: “If I could see one of my grandchildren win a medal at the Olympics, that would make me overjoyed.”

“Then I just burst”

Everything was prepared for the culmination of this European Championship, an end that the German Rowing Association sorely needed. Because the successes were mostly missing. The parade boat, the Germany eight, was only fourth, like Zeidler. Overall, there is only one medal for the DRV. Zeidler could have improved the balance sheet. Despite tough competition, he was the favourite. In the lead-up he completely overslept the start, started seconds later – and still finished first. He also won the semifinals, with the fastest time. But then the slump in the final. “I gave everything, so I can’t blame myself,” says Zeidler. “But of course it’s tough. Up to 1600, 1700 meters it was exactly the race I had planned, then I just burst.” Actually, he had planned to save some energy on the route, but gusts of wind made that impossible. “Then my arms turned blue and I could hardly pull my arms up, it just didn’t work anymore.”

“Of course it’s bitter, the way he describes the track here as his living room, having to suffer a defeat here is tough,” says his grandfather, who takes it sporty: “You can’t change it, that’s it Sport. Victory and defeat are very close together, you have to accept that.” He still had a good feeling at 1500 meters: “When he was ahead, I thought, now he’s bringing it home.” But the hope was dashed, first Twellaar passed. Then the Greek Stefanos Ntouskos and finally the Bulgarian Kristian Vasilev overtook him, while Zeidler barely managed to put a stroke into the water and almost stopped rowing before the finish line and just drifted across the finish line, his body bent over, completely exhausted.

“Of course that was very bitter, I’m really sorry for him, especially here in Munich,” says Alexandra Föster. The 20-year-old discipline colleague Zeidlers had provided a ray of hope for the DRV just half an hour before his race. Föster secures the bronze medal in one with a great final sprint. It’s so tight that the photo finish has to decide. “Hats off to the young girl,” praises head coach Brigitte Bielig. This year’s climber has not yet realized her success. Föster immediately took his time for Zeidler’s race after her own award ceremony, but they can’t celebrate together.

Next disappointment after the Olympics

It must be said that Zeidler cannot celebrate again. Because at the Olympic Games last year in Tokyo, he had put himself under a lot of pressure and made the gold medal his big goal. But then he missed making it into the A final and only finished seventh. In the semi-finals, the 2.03-metre-tall athlete was hit by the wind and strong waves. His inexperience could also have been his undoing, because a few years ago he was still a swimmer. He switched to rowing very late.

Zeidler did not change his tactics even before the European Championship. Lots of pressure, high expectations of yourself, powerful dishing out against others. The 26-year-old had definitely wanted to win gold 50 years after his grandfather. And he had heavily criticized the association. “It was both,” speculates Bielig about the reasons, the pressure and the criticism. She announces a conversation with Zeidler about his general criticism. “We are not professionals in Germany, but we have to compete against professionals,” he said. And further: “We have a good basis in rowing, but young talents often decide not to continue with all the effort.” Sport is not attractive enough in Germany. He was really tough against the association: In the DRV there is no one “who has this idea of ​​​​competitive sport”.

Medal remains World Cup goal

Bielig now says: “The conversation was deliberately not before the EM. Not that such conversations in advance are decisive that certain services are not provided.” While she believes that you will “find yourself on the right track”, Zeidler shares again: “I told the truth. I have to say the reaction of our national coach and our sports director, simply saying no to all of my arguments , is simply not how to deal with criticism that I have expressed.”

Things are smoldering in the association – and the World Championships in Racice, Czech Republic, are coming up next month. After the race, which was disappointing for his grandson, that’s positive for Farber: “Of course you’re a little disappointed, but life goes on and the next goal isn’t far away. He can put things right again.” His grandson has to “let it sink in” first, then he wants to watch the race again and “analyze it soberly”. Regeneration, “getting back on track”, “preparing and making sure that you can stand the last 200 meters. That’s a relatively achievable goal,” said Zeidler. “I think that will generate motivation as well.” Its orientation remains the same: full attack. “I think I could have won today if the race had been a little less long, so the goal for the World Championships is definitely to get a medal.”

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