Maike shines in Tunisia
After walking away with gold, Maike Diekmann proved she is a force to be reckoned with.
29 October 2019 | People
Maike Diekmann (25) made Namibia proud by securing qualification for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
She did this by taking gold at the FISA African Olympic and Paralympic qualification regatta in Tunisia.
“I have had a great year of training and racing and felt confident going into the competition,” Diekmann said.
Diekmann grew up on a farm just outside Otjiwarongo. “I went to a German primary private school in Otjiwarongo and then attended Otjiwarongo Secondary School, where I matriculated in 2012.
“I have always loved sport and being competitive, so I did athletics and played inline hockey during my school career,” says Diekmann.
“Right after matric, I attended Rhodes University in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape in South Africa, where I graduated with a bachelor of science and then did my honours in geology.”
Diekmann is currently based in Pretoria for her training. She trains at the University of Pretoria (Tukkies) and at the Roodeplaat Dam.
“I was introduced to rowing for the first time at Rhodes University at the end of 2014 and started properly in January 2015, so I have just been rowing just short of five years.
“I was encouraged by rowing club members to join the club at the yearly sports expo. I was quite intimidated at first, and did not join, as I did not think it was a sport I could learn that easily.
“But then I was given a chance to be part of a fun crew with a bunch of beginners to race at the annual university boat races in Port Alfred,” Diekmann said.
After winning their race, Diekmann felt such an adrenaline rush and loved the competitiveness. The Rhodes rowing coach then taught her the basics and she attended a month-long training camp the following year.
“I love the challenge and of course the fact that I get to exercise outside most of the time, in nature. I love the outdoors and out on the water it is very peaceful and great to clear your mind. I also love the environment around rowing and the dedicated and driven athletes that put so many hours of training into it, to chase after their dreams, no matter how big or small they are,” she says.
“After winning the final and grabbing an Olympic qualification, I felt a great sense of relief and happiness overcoming me. At the medal ceremony, when the Namibian flag was raised and the anthem was playing, tears of joy ran down my face. Everything just made sense in that moment,” she said.
Diekmann was nominated for 2019 Sportswoman of the Year and has participated in international rowing competitions in Austria, the Netherlands and Italy.
According to Diekmann, her biggest challenge has been finding a support system to help her train at an elite level, as well as financial constraints.
“It was difficult to find a team to train with, as I am a Namibian in South Africa. It is not easy to train with the national team… I had to therefore make my own team and find people to train with me, from Tukkies, for example. I was lucky to find a great coach in Pretoria who took an interest in helping me out and he had good connections to doctors and biokineticists, and after a while, we created or own ‘national team’,” she says.
“The financial side has also been a challenge, as I have not received any kind of funding from Namibia during my preparation for the qualification.
“The only source of external money that I received was from the International Olympic Committee and I received the Olympic Solidarity scholarship.
“This money helped me cover my monthly expenses in South Africa, but the bigger expenses such as travel costs to overseas tours were mostly funded by my family.
“I hope with me qualifying for the Olympics it will help me find more sponsors and that I will receive more support from the Namibian government.”
Diekmann said sport brings together people, takes children off the street, and produces healthy, strong-minded individuals, who will be a benefit to the country and its economy.
“Athletes develop important skills throughout their sporting careers, which help them in their academic and business pursuits.
“I would like to encourage young Namibian girls in sport to go after their dreams and goals, even if they seem so far away... It’s a dream of mine to be a role model to others and show that anything is possible if you put the work and effort into it; but especially if you do it with the love and passion you have for your sport and country.”