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Advent has just started, and the rowing season is long gone. How do the rowers spend their time before Christmas?
 
Rowers usually train this time of the year. You’ll find us in the boatyard as it’s already too cold outside. We spend a lot of time in the gym and working out on the rowing machine. We do get outside for a jog or a bit of cross-country skiing, though. It’s important to get as much prep as possible over the winter, so the time before Christmas and after New Year’s Day is pretty much the toughest for us.

So you don’t get in the boat much?

No, not really. You go rowing when it’s more than about 5 degrees above zero. It’s also quite windy now; it’s easy to get chilled. And when you put on lots of warm clothes, it’s difficult to move.

What does your pre-Christmas spurt look like? Do you do all the preparations in a hurry – last-minute – or do you prefer to relax?

We have small kids, so my wife usually takes care of the presents. But we managed to buy one or two during our summer holidays by the sea. We try to be prepared as it tends to get quite frantic. I also take part in a number of social events, parties, a calendar launch and so on. Then there’s little time for the Christmas craze, and actually, I have to admit I’m glad I miss a great part of it.

Who will get the best present from you this year? What is it going to be?

We, the entire family, have given ourselves one big present this year — we’ve finished our cottage at last. Then all we need is to be healthy and satisfied.

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Czech rower, three-time Olympic medallist and four-time World Champion in single sculls. He’s a four-time World Cup winner and has obtained a total of 10 medals at the World Rowing Championships.

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We, the entire family, have given ourselves one big present this year — we’ve finished our cottage at last.

Ondřej Synek

What are your Christmas wishes this year? What would you like to get this year?

I wish for everybody to be happy and healthy — the older I get, the more I realise this and appreciate it. But if I’m to name something tangible… I love everything with an engine. As a kid, I used to be an avid modeller, but I don’t have the time for it now. So maybe an airplane model. That’d be nice.

Can you remember a present from the past that has brought you the greatest joy?

When I got my Favorit road bike as a boy. That was an awesome present.

Have you ever experienced your own Christmas story with a happy ending?

Yes. It’s Christmas Day, I’m about eight years old, and there’s about 10 centimetres of new, frozen snow. In our garden, I find this old broomstick with a sharp tip. I try to jab it in the snow, like a javelin. I can’t do it, but a little later I somehow manage to stick it in the snow the other way around. It gets stuck, and as I struggle hard to get it out, I jab the spike all the way through my nose. So off to the emergency room we go. Luckily, no stitching was needed! (laughs)

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How does the Christmas diet of a sports professional look? Can you sin with food?

Well, I sin every day, I don’t have a special diet. So it’ll be the potato salad, sausage, schnitzel and carp. But we tend to get fed up in a few days, so we keep the Christmas food in low volume. And of course, I don’t turn down the sweets, either.

What is your typical Christmas Eve like? Where are you going to spend it this year?

It’ll be our first Christmas at our cottage. So far, we’ve been spending our holidays at home with the family and children. It goes the traditional way: dinner, carols, fairy tale on TV. I have to figure out where to hide the presents; there’s little space in the cottage. I guess we’ll have to drive the kids outside for a bit. (laughs)

 

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I don’t have a special diet. So it’ll be the potato salad, sausage, schnitzel and carp.

Ondřej Synek

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Do you keep any Christmas traditions?

We do halve an apple, but other than that, we don’t keep traditions. Maybe we’ll start with nutshell boats with candles this year.

How do you reflect on 2016? Has it met your expectations?

Well, it’s been the Olympic year, one of the peaks of my career. Honestly, I expected the result to be a little better, but it’s sports, and you can’t always be in the best shape. Not my greatest performance in the finals, but I snatched a medal, so it was OK after all. My children are growing and are a great joy for me. They’ve learned to swim, my four-year-old swims on his own, and that’s incredible. It’s been a good year.

What do you wish for yourself, your relatives and everyone around you in 2017?

Naturally, loads of health, happiness and love. We keep on hearing this over and over again, but you can’t live without these. Also I wish for people to be more tolerant. And less ignorant – that’s been annoying me lately. So maybe this: a bit less ignorance in 2017.

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