Growing up near Otjiwarongo, Namibia ,Diekmann was never exposed to rowing or any other water sports, for that matter. Her curiosity finally got the best of her in her third year of studies at South Africa’s Rhodes University in Grahamstown, and she decided to give the sport a go.
“They put me in the smallest boat, the single sculls, straight away, which I think, when looking back, was the best thing,” Diekmann recalled.
“I had to learn in what is considered the most difficult boat. It is unstable, it is just you and no one else helping you balancing the boat. So I learned quickly about the basic things in the stroke, even though it was such a new sport and I’ve never been exposed to something like this.”
Mere months after her first strokes, Diekmann represented Namibia for the first time at the 2015 African Olympic qualification regatta in Tunisia for Rio 2016. She missed out on qualification, but the experience alone served as validation of her newfound dream.
“I remember that clearly because that was after nine months of rowing, and there I was racing for Namibia,” said Diekmann.
“That was exciting, and it was a big step in my career where I realised this was something I wanted to take further and get better for Namibia and see if I can qualify for the Olympics one day.
“From there, that is where the dream of Tokyo and the next Olympic cycle was born.”
Maike qualified for Tokyo 2020 where she finished 18th in the world. A phenomenal result considering her short rowing career.
Her rowing exploits have made waves in Namibia, where she and her coach, Grant Dodds have been recognised for promoting rowing and advancing women’s sport. Dodds was named 2019 coach of the year at the Namibia Annual Sports Awards, while Diekmann was nominated as sportswoman of the year.
“It wasn’t an easy road. It’s been up and down, it has been quite a lonely path at times, but as I went along this road, many people became a part of it,” she said.
“I’ve made the best of what I had, and I did create everything I have because I never sat back. I want to get more girls involved in sport, and rowing especially. I hope people remember me as not always going after results but looking for the people at the bottom looking to get to the top.”
A big congrats to Maike on her first Olympics and look forward to seeing her in Paris, 2024.