We speak to the Czech canoeist about how he transitioned from Olympian to sports administrator without missing a stroke
When Martin Doktor – renowned as the best sprint canoeist in the Czech Republic – realised that he wasn’t going to qualify for a fourth Olympic Games in 2008, opportunity came knocking at his door.
Doktor, then aged 34 and already a double Olympic gold medallist in C1 at the Olympic Games Atlanta 1996, was offered the head coaching position with the Czech Canoe Federation. He immediately accepted.
“It was perfect for me – I switched from the boat to the shore,” Doktor tells the Olympic Athletes’ Hub at the recent ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships in Račice, Czech Republic.
“The Czech Canoe Union were looking for someone to change course,” he adds. “What I’d learned during my career was crucial – I knew how sports teams work and what the athletes need. It was a very good four years managing the team and ideal preparation for my present position.”
Doktor is now Director of Sport with the Czech Olympic Committee – a position that offers fresh and varied challenges, while keeping him close to his fellow athletes. The three-time Olympian says it was a natural transition.
“It was a dream job – I was partly lucky, but clearly it was because of my sports career,” Doktor admits. “If I didn’t have any medals, then there may not have been any offer, so perhaps you can say this wouldn’t have happened without my sport achievements, but also not without my education.”
Doktor, now 43, studied physical education and sport at Charles University in Prague while he was still competing, in preparation for his post-sports career.
“It wasn’t easy to combine both, especially during the first two years of my studies,” he explains. “Twice a day I travelled from one side of Prague, where the university campus was, to the other side of the city for training. Sometimes, I fell asleep on public transport or I had to train in the evening when it was freezing cold.”
Doktor’s current job has seen him take on the role of Chef de Mission for the Czech team at the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014 and the Olympic Games Rio 2016 – a position involving myriad responsibilities to ensure that the Czech Olympians would have the best possible overall experience at the Games.
“Sochi was a big learning experience for me,” he reveals. “We had three Athletes’ Villages – rather than just one like in Rio – so sometimes coordinating travel and logistics was challenging. And then you must have different approaches for different athletes, dealing with small aspects like who lives together, because cross-country skiers and biathletes don’t always get along!”
While his role has seen him help Olympians to feel comfortable at the Games, Doktor believes more athletes should also start thinking about what they want to do when they retire from sport.
“You should be focused on sport, but you have to have other aspects in your life as well,” he says. “My advice is go to university, study and then focus on your strongest attributes.”
But whether racing his canoe at top speed or providing for athletes in his new position, Doktor says there is always room for improvement.
“I would like to be better in my job – better with connections to athletes, find more money for them and prepare better conditions for them. That is what I am focused on right now.”