Dane Sverri Nielsen Brings International Flavor to Men's 1x

By Jenna Ciccotelli – Posted on October 18, 2019

Nielsen racing in Saturday’s Champ Singles (Photo by Riley Robinson)

Sverri Nielsen has always had the physical strength needed to succeed in rowing.

It comes from the 26-year-old’s upbringing on the Faroe Islands, a set of volcanic islands that are part of the Kingdom of Denmark and lie about halfway between Norway and Iceland in the North Atlantic Ocean. Temperatures sit around 54 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer when nights are bathed in perpetual twilight, dipping to 41 degrees in the winter, when days are blanketed with darkness due to the northern latitude of the land.

Nielsen, who now lives in Bagsvaerd, Denmark (about seven miles north of Copenhagen), got his start in the sport rowing wooden boats in the rough waters off the coast of the islands.

“It’s a bit different rowing in the Faroese boats,” Nielsen said, leaning back on a table in the Fluidesign tent where he will launch for the men’s championship singles race on Saturday. “The seat is fixated, it doesn’t move. So it’s more of an upper-body strength that’s necessary.”

With the physicality aspect covered, Nielsen began competing internationally in 2012, just missing the cut for the 2016 Olympics. But this season has been different for Denmark’s star, who has begun work with a new coach (Thomas Poulsen) and has worked his way toward the top in 2019, with first place finishes in the men’s single sculls at both World Rowing Cup II & III, and a silver medal at the World Rowing Championships, which qualified Denmark for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Under the mentorship of Poulsen—who won the gold medal for Denmark in the lightweight fours at the 1996 Olympics and was part of a world record in boat 1999 with a time of 5:45.60–Nielsen has increased his focus on the technical aspect of his sport.

“It’s always been the technical aspect that’s been missing for me,” Nielsen said. “I think with a combination of more training, I’m a little bit stronger this year than in previous years, and a good technical coach.”

After qualifying his boat for the 2020 Olympics, Nielsen was supposed to head home for a bit of a break, to rest, have some fun, and maybe pick back up with his electrical engineering studies at the University of the Faroe Islands. But he switched his schedule around to make his second appearance at the Head of the Charles this weekend (he was a member of the 2017 Great 8 boat that placed second).

“It’s just for fun,” Nielsen said. “I think it’s a nice regatta. If you’re lucky with the weather, it’s really good. I’ve kept in shape. I’ve done my work. It fits in [to Nielsen’s schedule] very well.”

Nielsen will sit fourth bow behind Andrew Campbell, John Graves, and Kevin Meador in the men’s championship singles race, and is the lone international competitor in the field – a fact that he admitted he isn’t thinking much about. Instead, there’s something else about this weekend’s race that sticks out.

“I really can’t remember that it was this difficult to steer this course,” he laughed, looking out at the passing crews warming up under cloudy skies Friday morning. “I think most of [the men’s champ 1x field] know the course better than I do. That will probably be the defining factor, if I can still get through without too much trouble.”

(Editor’s note: Nielsen finished second in Saturday’s Champ Singles race, less that one second down to winner John Graves.)