NAMIBIAN rower Maike Diekmann is fast improving and chasing her dream of qualifying for the Olympic Games.
The 24-year-old Diekmann recently competed in the Memorial Paolo d'Aloja International Regatta in Piediluco, Italy where she won a bronze medal in the A final against some of Europe and Africa's top rowers.
"Walking away with such a big achievement and my first international medal was overwhelming and special. Proving it to myself that I have what it takes to compete at the top level of racing and boosting my confidence like that is what I needed after a long block of training," she said.
It was a great achievement and a major improvement over the past year since she failed to make the A final last year.
A top class field competed, including the 2018 world champion, Sanita Puspura of Ireland, but Diekmann improved from race to race as she progressed through the heats to the A final.
Diekmann grew up on a farm close to Otjiwarongo, and straight after school went to study at Rhodes University in Makhanda (formerly known as Grahamstown), where she graduated with an honours degree in geology in 2917.
She started rowing in her third year at university and initially competed at university competitions in South Africa at the beginners level for the first year. She took to it quite quickly and her results soon started to improve.
In October 2015, Diekmann represented Namibia for the first time in Tunisia at the Africa Championships and Olympic Qualification Regatta for Rio 2016. Here she only made the B final, which she won to finish seventh overall. She however missed out on her dream of qualifying for the Rio Olympic Games as only the top four women qualified.
In 2016 she started competing at A division level at competitions in South Africa, and in August she represented Namibia at the under 23 World Championships in Rotterdam in the Women's single scull category, where she came 22nd overall.
In 2017 Diekmann made the decision to row full-time and aim to qualify as the first Namibian rower for the Olympic Games in Tokyo and received a scholarship from Olympic Solidarity to pursue her dream.
She made remarkable progress and in 2018 she won a silver medal at the African Championships in Tunisia.
She moved to Pretoria in May last year to surround herself with better facilities and joined the Tuks Rowing Club, while she enlisted the services of coach Grant Dodds to help her prepare for the World Championships in Bulgaria in September 2018. With Dodds' assistance, her technical skills improved considerably and she rowed a new personal best time, finishing fourth overall in the C final and 16th overall.
Diekmann is now preparing to race at the South African Championships on the last weekend of April and World Cup III in Rotterdam before the biggest event of the year - the World Championships in Linz, Austria in September which is also the major qualifying event for the 2020 Olympic Games.