The final in men’s single sculler at the Tokyo Olympics on July 30th saw Faroese rower Sverri Sandberg Nielsen, on Denmark’s national team, ending up .15 seconds away from scoring a medal.
27-year old Sandberg Nielsen has won several international medals, including a gold medal at the 2020 European Rowing Championships in Poland, a silver medal in the 2019 World Championships in Austria, and another silver medal in the 2021 European Rowing Championships. He was one of the favorites for Friday’s final, having won the first heat, the quarter final, and finished in second place in the semifinals on Thursday.
Unfortunately for Sandberg Nielsen, he came short of securing a medal although exceedingly close — finishing only 0.15 seconds behind bronze winner Martin Damir from Croatia. Stefanos Ntouskos from Greece ended up winning the gold medal with Norway’s Kjetil Borch taking silver.
Sandberg Nielsen was born in the Faroe Islands and grew up in Miðvágur. For the past ten years, however, he has been living in Bagsværd, Denmark, focusing much of his energy on competitive rowing. Although he represented Denmark at the Olympics, his boat was painted in the colors of the Faroese flag.
“I’m very happy to have a boat with Faroese colors,” he told Danish media last week, stressing that he was representing both nations. “It took some convincing to get the IOC [International Olympics Committee] to agree to it. It means a lot to me that people know I’m from the Faroe Islands.”
“I grew up in the Faroe Islands, and I’ve lived in Denmark for ten years, so I actually feel pretty Danish now,” he added.
After Friday’s disappointing result, Sandberg Nielsen noted that this might have been the last race in his career as an elite rower.
“It’s a regrettable way to end things,” he said. “But at least I did everything I could, and I did everything right. I have gone as far as I wanted to go, and as far as my body could go — I just don’t want to continue.”
Yet he added that he might make a comeback.
“I can’t say I’ll never want to try again in a few years, but I was very clear about this being my last race. My body’s been under a lot of pressure, so that’s what I’ve decided.”
Friday’s final coincided with the Faroese National Holiday, the Ólavsøka, and thousands of Faroe Islanders gathered to follow the race which was showed live on a large outdoor screen in Tórshavn and in Sandberg Nielsen’s home town of Miðvágur, something for which he expressed appreciation.
“It means a lot, and I hope they can be proud of my accomplishments,” he said. “At least I did what I could, and I’m very grateful that so many chose to watch.”