Cameroon’s Paul Etia N’Doumbe took up rowing in 2005 and just three years later was competing in the single sculls at the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008. Now, the 28-year-old is hoping that his Olympic Solidarity Scholarship will help him finish in the top ten at this year’s London Olympic Games.
How did you start rowing?
Rowing first came to Cameroon in the early 2000s. It was when I attended the final of the Cup of Cameroon in Douala in 2005 that I decided to try the sport. The Cameroon Water Sports Federation then held a recruitment initiative for a three-month internship, which I was chosen for. At the end of this course, I passed the qualification and joined the national team’s training squad for a year. I then joined the team to participate in international events.
What difficulties have you encountered?
Initially, the hardest part was finding my balance in the boat. It is not easy to balance on the water!
How has the Olympic Solidarity programme helped you?
The Olympic Solidarity scholarship has helped me get good equipment, including my boat. It has also helped me train better, and in my new club in Rouen, France, I get to work with high-level training partners. I’ve now improved my stroke and increased my fitness level. With all these factors, I have greatly improved my overall performance in a short time. I have also gained confidence in myself.
What do you use the funds for?
I use the scholarship to cover my accommodation, medical expenses and insurance, as well as my coach’s travel expenses.
What have been the main highlights of your career so far?
The 2007 African Games in Algiers, which was my first big international competition, where I finished in sixth place. Obviously the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008 was a highlight, and then the 2009 African Championships in Tunis, where I finished second. The 2011 World Rowing Championships in Bled, Slovenia, were also good, but my best memory and my best performance was in the Olympic Qualifying Championship in Alexandria, where I finished in third place to secure my ticket to London!
What are your goals for the future?
In London in 2012, I hope to finish in the top 10. In September, I am aiming to become African champion, and then I hope to continue rowing while taking courses to become a rowing coach. My long-term goal is to become national coach of Cameroon.
Did you have any Olympic heroes when you were younger?
I watched the Olympic Games on television and liked the high jump, especially watching [1992 Olympic Champion from Cuba] Javier Sotomayor.
Do you use social media to keep in touch with your friends, family and fans?
Yes, I’m on Facebook. And I remain in contact with my family, friends and coaches while I am in France. It is essential to keep your spirits up when you’re away from home!
Olympic Solidarity is the body that ensures that talented athletes, regardless of their financial status, have an equal chance of reaching the Olympic Games and succeeding in the Olympic arena.
It is responsible for administering and managing the National Olympic Committees’ share of the revenue from the sale of broadcasting rights to the Olympic Games.
Working in particular with the most disadvantaged NOCs and their Continental Associations, Olympic Solidarity uses this money to develop a range of assistance programmes.
Within its total budget, USD 61 million is earmarked to provide support to athletes for the 2009-2012 Olympic Solidarity quadrennial period.