NAMIBIAN rowing ace Maike Diekmann qualified for the 2021 World Rowing Virtual Indoor Championships after winning the Virtual African Indoor Championships over the weekend.
Diekmann won the Women's Open 2 000m event in seven minutes 4,1 seconds (7:04,1), to finish well ahead of Monique Boshoff of South Africa (7:42,9) and another South African, Kendra Robinson (8:11,4).
Diekmann got off to a slow start, trailing in third position by the 300m mark, but soon started to haul the other rowers in.
By the 500m mark she had taken a one second lead over Robinson, and gradually pulled away as the race progressed.
By the half way mark Diekmann was leading Boshoff by 13 seconds; by the 1 500m mark her lead had stretched to 24 seconds, and at the end she finished nearly 40 seconds ahead of Boshoff.
Ät the moment I am in the middle of my three week training camp based at the Vaal River and I have been training hard for two weeks so far. It was therefore not an ideal time to do a 2 000m trial, but I am pleased with my win and happy to have qualified for next year's World Championships," Diekmann said.
She, however, added that her time was not that great.
"I have gone faster over 2 000m before, but for me it was more about being able to have some kind of racing again after a long year of no competitions. Even though the racing via laptop and on a virtual platform is so different and very new to me, I really enjoyed feeling the race nerves and getting my mind ready to hopefully start competing again next year," she said.
"It was a well-organised event and great to be representing Namibia among all the other African countries," she added.
More than 450 rowers from 16 African countries participated in the event, with South Africa having the most entrants at 286, while Tunisia had 127 entrants.
Namibia had one of the smallest contingents of two rowers, with Emelia Botha also competing besides Diekmann.
Botha competed in the Masters Womens's category for women between 40 and 49 years where she came second in the 2 000m race in a time of 9:25,3.
Botha missed out on automatic qualification for the World Virtual Indoor Championships, but said she still hoped to qualify.
"I now have to take a different route in order to qualify. The 500m and the 60 minute rowing events still have qualifying spots open in my age category and there are also five open 2 000m spots still available. At the moment we are waiting for World Rowing to confirm the qualifying standards for these events," she said.
"I will continue to give it my best and who knows, Namibia, might have two rowers at the World Indoor Championship next year," she added.
Diekmann said it was great to be competing again after a difficult year.
"This was the first time Africa has hosted a Virtual Indoor Regatta, so it was really amazing to see this event and the athletes come together after a long period of no competitions and tough times due to Covid-19."
"The main goal of taking part in this regatta for me, was to represent Namibia and put my country on the world map amongst the indoor rowing community. I am very excited to take part amongst the best in the world at next year's World Championships," she added.