The goal getter
All Bulgarian eyes turned to rowing when Rumyana Neykova became Bulgaria’s only Olympic
Champion at the 2008 Games. Bulgaria had last won Olympic gold in rowing more than 30 years
previously, in 1976, at the Montreal Games.
Neykova first raced at the Olympic Games in the women’s single
sculls in 1996. She finished eighth. But she would soon become
one of the top single scullers in the world, along with archrivals
Ekaterina Karsten-Khodotovitch from Belarus and Katrin
Rutschow-Stomporowski from Germany. All other female single
scullers had little chance of making it beyond fourth at any World
Rowing or Olympic regatta. It took Neykova 12 years after the
Atlanta Games to win the long-coveted Olympic gold. The podium
in Sydney and Athens looked similar, only with different medals
hanging around the necks of the top trio. After playing second
fiddle to Karsten for many years, at Beijing Neykova finally made
it past the Belarusian in an Olympic final to grab gold.
Neykova did not feel confident on the “day of truth” ( 16 August
2008). But the reassurances of her coach Svilen Neykov, who is also
her husband and the father of her two children, made her wonder
what excuse she could possibly find for not succeeding.
© 2007 Vladimir Rys/Getty Images
“The start was given. Throughout the whole race I could only hear
my coach from the shore,” says Neykova. “The first thing I did after
the finish was to find Svilen so we could congratulate each other for
the big victory. An Olympic Champion is an Olympic Champion
forever, the highest goal for an athlete.”
“In Beijing I won the medal I had awaited for so long,” says Neykova.
“Throughout the years I often hesitated about whether I should
continue racing. Giving birth to my two wonderful boys [Emile and
Mario] helped me overcome those moments of hesitation. At the
2008 Olympics I really felt much more mature and better prepared
than ever, feeling very strong and confident.”
So now that she has reached the ultimate goal of becoming an
Olympic Champion, will Neykova, at age 37, continue competing or
hang up her oars? “I am still hesitating very much and considering
if I should continue to train or devote my time to my family,” she
replies. Perhaps she will surprise the world of rowing with another
Olympic feat in two years’ time.