Jiri Simanek (b), Miroslav Vrastil (s), Lightweight Men's Double Sculls, Czechia, 2023 World Rowing Championships, Belgrade, Serbia © World Rowing/Benedict Tufnell

ROWER OF THE MONTH – Miroslav Vrastil followed his father into rowing, and has since excelled both on the water and on the ergo. He’s now looking to break more records at his home World Rowing Indoor Championships in Prague. He is our February Rower of the Month.

How did you get into rowing?

It is a long time ago. When I was very young I switched between so many sports, and I stayed in rowing because my father [also Miroslav Vrastil] was a rower. He was at three Olympic Games. He didn’t want me to do rowing as a main sport, he was happier with different sports like football or something like that. But I love rowing and now it’s more than 27 years that I do rowing and I’m still loving it.

What was it like racing at the 2023 World Rowing Indoor Championships?

Last year it was just virtual, it wasn’t in person. I wasn’t happy because we had some connection problems with the internet. My ergo just told me stop rowing so I sat on my ergo for 18 minutes waiting for my start. I wasn’t well prepared for the race. I’m looking forward to racing in person in Prague, and hopefully it will be better.

You broke the world record for the lightweight 40-49 age category, setting a time of 6:13.6, at last year’s World Indoor Rowing Championships – did you expect that before the race?

My goal was to break the world record in my age category, but I wanted to go under 6:10 so I wasn’t happy with that result.

Every year I want to do better. My personal best is 6:09, so I want to break 6:09 but we’ll see. The Czech best time is 6:08.9 so I was short one-tenth of a second, so I’ll give one more shot to break the Czech record and I will do everything this year.

What are your hopes for the World Rowing Indoor Championships in Prague?

It will be a big event, so maybe it could give me some more motivation in the race, especially in the last 300 metres. I want to break the Czech record and also the world record in my category.

What’s your favourite erg session?

When I was younger I was really bad on the ergo, I struggled a lot and I wasn’t fast enough. Through the years I found some love for the ergos.

Maybe the worst session, is 1500, 1250, 1000, 750, 500; start at race pace plus a second then better and better. That’s really tough, with two minutes rest in between. It was some experiment from our coach Michal Vabrousek. We tried and we hated it.

But usually I do lots of long endurance sessions, 26 to 30 kilometres every day. Sometimes it’s two sessions on the ergo, but sometimes I switch between Concept2 and RP3 rowing. Maybe it’s because of my age and my back issues; I try to find some balance between these ergos. The RP3 maybe saved my career. In the Czech Republic the winter isn’t so good for rowing outside so we spend a lot of time on ergos in the gym.

What’s on your erg playlist?

It depends on my mood. Today I listened to Ren, he’s a British singer. It depends, sometimes it’s AC:DC or Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Mostly rock, but sometimes something new.

How do you think indoor rowing complements rowing on the water?

It’s really important to have some base and just save your money in the bank. The ergo is a really good machine for that and especially if you see the numbers, everything is measurable. That’s the key. The RP3 is much better for comparison with rowing on the water, because the Concept you just pull, pull, pull and it’s a little bit different on the water.

You’ve consistently made the A-final in the LM2x at recent major championships – how are you approaching the Paris 2024 Olympic Games?

Me and my mate in the double, Jiri Simanek, we think that we have enough fourth places, so now we want some medals. I think we can do it, but the other guys they are also fast and we’ll see in Paris, it’ll be a hard regatta especially mentally. Every world championship in the last few years it was really hard, maybe because it’s the last lightweight category.

We want to prepare good for the European championships and then also for Paris. The last four years we spent a lot of time with the Sinkovic brothers in the summer at Peruća lake in Croatia. We really look forward to seeing them again. They’re really good, not just as athletes but as a person.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

Definitely the Tokyo Olympics. Maybe all of my Olympics, but the result in Tokyo, and especially after so many years in sweep rowing, I needed to switch to sculling, so Tokyo was really nice. We didn’t expect that we could do fourth place in Tokyo but we made it.

Since then we are really good in final A. The last four years were really good, especially at my age. Every year I’m on the edge of my career, so every year is like a gift.

If you could give one piece of advice to a rower starting out what would it be?

Just do what you like and what you love.

Do you have a mentor or athlete that you admire?

In my life definitely my father. He’s an inspiration, not just for his rowing career but also his Ironman races. He did more than 100 Ironman races. He’s crazy but in a good way.