Slovakia’s junior single sculler Andre Rédr poses with national team blades. Rédr
trains in his native Czech town Hodonín in a private plot, away from the local rowing club. Photo courtesy of Andre Rédr.
What do Xeno Müller of Switzerland, Aleksandar Aleksandrov (Александър Александров) of Bulgaria, and Andre Rédr of the Czech Republic have in common? All are men of different ages and definitely excellent single scullers – but another thing that unites them is their decision to represent a country other than their original homeland. While Müller’s transfer to the United States occurred at the very end of his career and was primarily related to his previous long-term residence in the country, the other two rowers have a different story: by adopting the citizenship of countries in which they had never lived, they wanted to escape troubles that may have blocked their performance growth in their native countries. And, probably as rowing traditionally is a sport of gentlemen where media interest in any problems is not welcome, one can hardly find any clear information on the real reason of Aleksandrov’s option for Azerbaijan (where he was accompanied by three other fellows from Bulgaria) as well as Rédr’s choice of Slovakia.
Bulgarian rowing coach Yuliana Stoeva seems to suggest in a media interview of 2 May this year that she actually mediated the transfer of her wards to Azerbaijan. She does indicate there were tensions (“the problem was in people and personal relations”) but tries to compensate criticism by what seems to be contradictory: Stoeva also says that “the problems were global”, the reason was “neither money nor relations with the [Bulgarian Rowing] Federation”, and mentions by name two high-ranking Bulgarian rowing officials with whom she keeps “brilliant relations”. It is up to the reader to undo the puzzle. After all, the result may be more important than the cause.
Crossing the River
On his part, the Czech rower Andre Rédr has not been the subject of media interest so far. I have first come across his name in a discussion forum on the website of the Czech Rowing Association where (not surprisingly) emotions and speculations of the writers seemed to prevail over facts. But having enquired about Rédr’s reason for representing Slovakia, I confirm that the facts are hard to get.
The breakthrough year was 2007. Having collected a number of victories and medals for the local rowing club in the Czech town Hodonín, the then 15 years old Rédr suddenly disappeared from the scene. He recently described the period for Remigatio Blog: “In 2007, I won the Czech Republic Sprint Championships. Before those championships, I had not been enabled to train on water, thus training on land only. In the same year, I was not enabled to participate in the Czech Republic Championships on the 1,500 metres distance.” Why should a rowing club punish its member and deprive him of access to training facilities? That question seems to touch too a sensitive area: Rédr mentions “problems… that are gone and which I do not want to specify” while the chairman of the rowing club in question, Miroslav Hatala, sent a brief statement: “Andre Rédr left Hodonín Rowing Club at his own request. We wish... him success.”
If you ask why the young talented rower did not move to another club in the native Czech Republic, it gets even more complicated: Rédr himself says he had tried this option but no Czech club wanted to pay the transfer amount recommended by the Czech Rowing Association statutes (an equivalent of about 400 euro plus 25 per cent of the subsidies received from sports bodies for the athlete’s high performance preparation). Therefore, the easiest solution for him was to row abroad. He became a member of the Slávia STU rowing club in Slovakia’s capital Bratislava and later also the Slovak international contestant in junior men’s single. Now he has dual citizenship.
Rédr’s rowing trainings continue in his hometown Hodonín, away from the local rowing club. He rows on the Morava river that forms the natural border between the Czech Republic and Slovakia in those areas. So even when training, Rédr has his homeland on one hand and the country he represents on the other.
As Rédr recently wrote to Remigatio Blog, he trains “approximately four hours a day” before large events. And it pays: both last and this year, Rédr surpassed all Czech single scullers in the Brno International Junior Regatta (finishing fifth and third, respectively). Earlier this year, he won at the Czech Open Junior Championships in double where he had been joined by Jakub Podrazil, otherwise a single sculler of Prague whom his friend Rédr perceives as “a very good opponent” for the upcoming Junior World Championships.
Last year, Rédr finished twelfth in the Junior World Championships. How about this year? “My personal goal is a medal. We will see,” he replies. Just after the junior’s top regatta held in Račice, Czech Republic, Rédr will represent Slovakia in the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore. (UPDATE: In Singapore, Rédr’s main rival was a viral infection that had affected his performance in semi-finals and then prevented him from start in the Final B. He was classified as twelfth.)