Emotional media appointment in Kägiswil OW: Jeannine Gmelin announces her retirement as an active rower after the death of her coach.
Matthew Dubachreporter sports
This reason for resignation is so sad that it does not appear in any career planning. Jeannine Gmelin (32) ended her extraordinary rowing career immediately because her trainer and life partner Robin Dowell († 40) died on December 16th in the middle of a training trip.
Gmelin says: “The gut feeling to stop came quickly and then stayed. It feels good to make the cut now. I’m just grateful for everything I was able to experience with Robin.”
The unbelievable stroke of fate on Lake Sarnen was only six weeks ago. Nevertheless, Gmelin spoke openly for the first time about the hardest time of her life at a media conference in her private gym in Kägiswil OW.
Her sister did not leave Gmelin’s side
The Zurich Oberlander describes an enormous wave of compassion. This includes unexpected offers. Her competitor Magdalena Lobnig (32) offered to join her training group in Austria. And Gmelin is impressed by the support she has from her own family and from Dowell’s English relatives.
Gmelin’s sister travels to Sarnen on the day of her death and does not leave her side for three weeks. “We are very different and are actually not that close,” says the ex-world champion, “she took a lot from me in the first few weeks. I’m very happy for her.”
With the blessing of Dowell’s family, it is Gmelin herself who organizes the funeral with her sister. This takes place in Sarnen, not in England.
The fact that Gmelin and her coach were also a private duo always kept them strictly separate from sporting matters. Even when, after Dowell was dismissed in 2019, she continued as association coach with the British outside of the Swiss Rowing structures. Now she calls him soul mate, partner, best friend and adds: “We were Teammates for Live”. I miss him especially in the everyday things.”
Gmelin tearfully talks about Dowell
Most recently, Gmelin kept hearing well-intentioned advice. “Many said keep rowing for Robin.” These are the most emotional moments at the media event in the small kitchen next to her gym. Gmelin can no longer hold back the tears and says, crying but in a firm voice: «I’ll keep doing it for him anyway. He’s still behind me. It doesn’t matter what I do in the future.”
After these words, there was an oppressive silence at the table. Manager Daniela Gisler, according to Gmelin also a big support these days, then cleverly directs the focus to the sport.
In 2024 in Paris, the rowing star wanted to attack again after two fifth places at the Olympic Games. “It takes 100 percent commitment. But I no longer see myself as an active athlete. I’ve only been out on the water once in a skiff since then, but it felt totally empty,” says the Obwaldner by choice, who, despite everything, is staying on Lake Sarnen for the time being. «I have nothing against the lake and rowing. I have many beautiful moments.”
Gmelin has no grudges for the fate that pushed her into the great void. “I’m also glad I was there when it happened. It would have been worse to just get the bad news somewhere.”
Despite an autopsy, the medical reason for the fall from the motorboat into the water and the drowning could not be determined. Dowell was an epileptic, but there is no evidence of this disease as a cause. Death on the lake came out of nowhere.
Gmelin has not yet decided what she will do in the future. But she knows one thing: she wants to live on Dowell’s extraordinary humanity. “He approached everyone impartially. Whether it’s a one-year-old child or a 90-year-old woman, Robin has always found the right wavelength. That stays with me forever. I want to continue that.”
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