Jonathan Rommelmann, Lightweight Men's Single Sculls, Germany, 2024 World Rowing Cup III, Poznan, Poland © Maren Derlien / MyRowingPhoto.com

It was a bittersweet ending to a career.

After Germany’s Jonathan Rommelmann and his partner Paul Leerkamp missed out on qualification for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games by just over 2 seconds at the ‘last chance’ regatta in Lucerne last month, the Tokyo 2020 lightweight men’s double sculls (LM2x) silver medallist knew the end was approaching as his time as an elite athlete.

But Rommelmann gave things once last shot, and at 2024 World Rowing Cup III in Poznan, picked up his final medal – another silver, in the lightweight men’s single sculls. It was the same course and the same event where he raced his first ever World Rowing Cup, back in 2017.

“Coming here and closing that circle with the lightweight single again and ending up with a medal makes me happy,” he says.

Rommelmann has chosen to step away from rowing to concentrate on his career in medicine, after his bid to go one better than his Olympic silver failed. He took a break from the sport after Tokyo to finish his medical studies, and then decided to return for another two-year stint.

“It was always a plan that after those two years, in 2024, with the lightweights not being in the Olympic programme anymore, this would be the end for my career as an elite athlete. It’s not surprising that it ends this year, but of course a huge disappointment that it ends now and not after the Paris Olympics because it was obviously a huge goal that we tried to achieve and worked for,” says Rommelmann.

The German’s international career began as an under-23 in 2013 with bronze in the lightweight men’s quadruple sculls (LM4x). Two years later he was under-23 world champion in the LM2x, and won silver at the 2015 World Rowing Championships in the LM4x. Since then he has been consistently among the top crews in whatever even he has raced in, rarely finishing off the podium until last year – when after an agonising capsize in the World Rowing Championship semifinals, Germany’s hopes of making it to Paris took a big hit.

Jonathan Rommelmann (b), Jason Osborne (s), Lightweight Men’s Double Sculls, Germany, 2020 Olympic Games Regatta, Tokyo, Japan / World Rowing/Detlev Seyb

Still, Rommelmann says he can look back at his career with pride, particularly with the Tokyo performance – Germany’s first, and only, Olympic medal in the LM2x.

“We did everything we could; in the semifinal we had the Olympic record for about 10 minutes before the Irish came and broke it by about a tenth of a second. We were in top form, we did everything we could, and we really put one of our best races out there,” he remembers.

“Apart from that I was able to win gold medals and medals at European championships, at world championships, at World Cups, and the overall World Cup win in 2019. I won medals at least at every stage. Of course sometimes it could have been a little bit gold-er, but there’s really nothing to be sorry about.”

Rommelmann is now planning to join the many rowers choosing medicine as a career, including his longstanding rival, Paul O’Donovan of Ireland. He says he cannot work out what makes medicine so attractive to rowers, but agrees it is a common career path.

“Maybe it’s the dedication you have to put in for both. Maybe it’s a tradition because rowing used to be an academical sport,” he suggests.

Rowing, however, will remain a part of Rommelmann’s life.

“After Lucerne there was a huge disappointment and I didn’t really think about rowing, but it only took one week and I thought maybe I get back in the single and go for a little row, because it’s just a beautiful sport. Especially lightweight rowing: the fierce competition, the close races, and always pushing yourself to the limits, and being restricted in your weight and your capabilities in terms of strength and somehow that you have to really perfect your stroke and perfect your rowing,” he says. “It always feels competing on the water but never on land, because on land it’s always a nice community and we have fun together. That’s probably what I will miss most.”

Rommelmann has plans to try and race with his younger brother Julius – currently a spare for the German sculling squad – at German championships and possibly Henley Royal Regatta next year. But the immediate focus, after some time off and a trip to Paris in a supporter’s capacity, is to find a job, and start the next stage of his life, as Dr Rommelmann.