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Karsten, Ekaterina

Ekaterina Karsten

1972-

Belarussian rower

Ekaterina Karsten is a champion rower who has won three World Championship medals and three Olympic medals. A native of Belarus, Karsten started competing professionally for the Soviet Union. However, in 1996 she became the first athlete to win an Olympic medal, particularly a gold medal, for the newly independent state of Belarus. Her success in rowing has made her a national hero. Karsten repeated her Olympic gold medal performance in 2000, winning the single sculls competition by only one tenth of a second.

Ekaterina Karsten was born Ekaterina Khodotovich on June 2, 1972 in Osetcheno, Belarus, which then was a republic of the Soviet Union. Osetcheno is a rural community about fifty miles from Minsk, the capital of Belarus. Karsten, popularly known as Katya, was the youngest of seven children who grew up on a farm. She was not especially interested in sports as a young child. When she was fifteen years old, she was approached by her gym coach to consider taking up rowing. The school had received a letter from the Minsk School of Rowing to scout "tall, healthy girls" for the republic's rowing team. Karsten was six feet tall and weighted 172 pounds, so she caught the attention of her gym teacher. Her gym teacher spoke with her parents about the opportunity to become a state-sponsored athlete and they agreed to let Karsten move to Minsk.

Quickly Became a National Champion

It only took two years for Karsten to become a national champion. In 1989, at the age of seventeen, Karsten won a gold medal at the Belarussian Junior Championships. A year later she won first place for single sculls at the All Soviet Union Championships and the Junior World Championships. In 1991 she won a bronze medal for double sculls at the World Championships. This was the last year she competed for the Soviet Union because the union of nations broke up after the fall of communism in Europe in the early 1990s.

Karsten made her Olympic debut in 1992 in Barcelona, Spain. She competed as a member of the Unified Team of Soviet States and she won a bronze medal in the quad scull. Karsten continued to compete after the 1992 Olympics, but she did not win any championships. In 1993 she placed seventh in the double sculls at the World Championships, and the following year she finished fifth in the same event. In 1995 Karsten finished seventh in the single sculls at the World Championships.

First Olympic Hero for Belarus

Karsten was prepared for her next Olympic appearance in Atlanta, Georgia in 1996. At the age of twenty-four she took first place in the single sculls competition. This time she was competing for the independent nation of Belarus and she won the first gold medal for the new country. In the final she defeated Silken Laumann, who was the favorite from Canada. Karsten returned to her home country as a national hero. She was welcomed not only with public recognition, but also with rewards, such as assistance buying an apartment, which was a luxury at that time.

Karsten's celebration was cut short when only six months later her father, her biggest supporter, was killed in a car crash. However, Karsten was able to overcome her grief and continue training for her best year yet. In 1997 Karsten won a gold medal in the single sculls at the World Championships. She also won World Cup regattas at Lucerne, Paris, and Munich, which led to her victory as overall champion in the single sculls at the World Cup.

Karsten took a break from rowing in 1998 to marry Wilfred Karsten of Potsdam, Germany. On May 12, 1998 she gave birth to her daughter, Alexandra. By December of 1998 Karsten returned to training. She and her family now lived in Potsdam, but she split her training time between Minsk and Potsdam. She retained her Belarussian coach, Anatoliy Kviatkovskiy, who traveled twelve hours from Minsk to Potsdam once a month to check up on Karsten. Karsten found it difficult to maintain her training regiment after having a baby and she considered retiring from rowing. However, she did not give up and she won yet another World Championship in single sculls in 1999. She also set a world-best time of seven minutes and 11.68 seconds.

Close Finish

In 2000 Karsten made her third Olympic appearance in Sydney, Australia at the age of 28. The reigning World Champion was favored to win the single scull competition, but Bulgarian Rumyana Neykova did not make it easy for her to win. Neykova led the final race until the final 300 meters when Karsten made a strong dash for the finish. The two rowers were tied with only 150 meters left in the race and they seemed to finish at the same time. The race judges had to review tapes and photos of the finish to determine the winner. "Two women waged war for just under 7½ gut-wrenching minutes yesterday, but it took three times as long to separate the victor from the vanquished," wrote Michael Horan of the Sunday Mail on September 24, 2000. After twenty-three minutes of deliberation, the judges announced that Karsten had won by only one tenth of one second. With this victory Karsten won her second consecutive Olympic gold medal for Belarus.

Karsten continued to compete internationally after the 2000 Olympics. In 2001 she won the single sculls World Cup races in Seville, Vienna, and Munich. She finished third in the single sculls World Championships in 2001 and second in 2002, where she was defeated by Neykova, her rival from the Olympics. Karsten is expected to compete in her fourth Olympic Games in Athens, Greece in 2004.

Chronology

1972 Born on June 2 in Osetcheno, Belarus
1987 Begins training at the Minsk School of Rowing
1989 Wins Belarussian Junior Championships
1990 Wins Junior World Championships
1992 Wins bronze medal in Olympics as member of the Unified Team of Soviet States
1996 Wins gold medal in Olympics as member of Belarussian team
1997 Wins World Championship in single sculls
1998 Marries Wilfred Karsten
1998 Gives birth to Alexandra
1999 Wins World Championship in single sculls
2000 Wins gold medal in Olympics in single sculls
2002 Wins silver medal in World Championships in single sculls

Awards and Accomplishments

1989 Gold medal, Belarussian Junior Championship
1990 Gold medal, single sculls, All Soviet Union Championships
1990 Gold medal, single sculls, Junior World Championships
1991 Bronze medal, double sculls, World Championships
1992 Bronze medal, quad sculls, Olympic Games
1993 Finished seventh, double sculls, World Championships
1994 Finished fifth, double sculls, World Championships
1995 Finished seventh, single sculls, World Championships
1996 Gold medal, single sculls, Olympic Games
1997 Overall champion, single sculls, Rowing World Cup
1997 Gold medal, single sculls, World Championships
1999 Gold medal, single sculls, World Championships
1999 Gold medal, single sculls, Rowing World Cup, Lucerne, Switzerland
2000 Gold medal, single sculls, Olympic Games
2000 Gold medal, single sculls, Rowing World Cup, Munich, Germany
2000 Gold medal, single sculls, Rowing World Cup, Lucerne, Switzerland
2001 First place, single sprint, Head of the Charles Regatta
2001 Gold medal, single sculls, Rowing World Cup, Seville, Spain
2001 Gold medal, single sculls, Rowing World Cup, Vienna, Austria
2001 Gold medal, single sculls, Rowing World Cup, Munich, Germany
2001 Silver medal, double sculls, Rowing World Cup, Munich, Germany
2001 Bronze medal, single sculls, World Championships
2001 Bronze medal, double sculls, World Championships
2002 Gold medal, single sculls, Rowing World Cup
2002 Silver medal, single sculls, World Championships
2002 Bronze medal, quad sculls, World Championships

CONTACT INFORMATION

Address: FISA Headquarters, Av. de Cour 135, Case Postale 18, 1000 Lausanne 3, Switzerland. Phone: (41) 21-617-8373.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Periodicals

Chamberlain, Tony. "Party's Over for Olympic Champ." Boston Globe (October 19, 2000): E1.

Guinness, Rupert. "Like Water for Chocoladovitch." Weekend Australian (August 5, 2000): S14.

Horan, Michael. "0.01 The Margin." Sunday Mail (South Africa) (September 24, 2000): L14.

Other

2001 Head of the Charles Regatta. http://www.boston.com/sports/head_of_the_charles/news/2001/102201_us_men.htm (January 20, 2003).

Biography Resource Center Online. http://www.galenet.com (January 20, 2003).

CNNSI.com - Olympic Sports. http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/olympics/news/2000/03/28/olympic_bio_khodotovich (January 20, 2003).

FISA - The Official World Rowing Web Site. http://www.worldrowing.com (January 31, 2003).

International Olympic Committee. http://www.olympic.org (January 20, 2003).

Sydney Games. http://www.olympics.smh.com/au/rowing/2000/09/23/FFXBVZOCGDC.html (January 31, 2003).

Thames World Sculling Challenge. http://www.twsc.rowing.org.uk/karsten.html (January 20, 2003).

Sketch by Janet P. Stamatel

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