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Architect of Dreams

Svetlana Otzetova

It’s Sunday 24th September 2017, and the Sarasota-Bradenton world championships are well under way. Standing on the vertiginous finish tower, looking out with satisfaction over the glistening lake and worldclass facilities, radio in her hand, is arguably the most powerful woman in world rowing.

Svetlana Otzetova, FISA’s architect, course designer and logistics expert, is far from a show-off. A trim figure in her late 60s, Otzetova will talk for hours with enthusiasm about world rowing, but becomes suddenly shy when the conversation turns to her own career. Yet she is one of the greats, from the generation of Bulgarian rowers who made history for their country in the mid-1970s. And for 20 years she has not only designed new rowing courses, many of which have held world or Olympic regattas, but also refined and improved every practical detail of FISA events. She is rowing’s technical mastermind.

Otzetova, called ‘Svetla’, was born in November 1950, four years after the fledgling Bulgarian communist state was established behind the Iron Curtain. Initially drawn to swimming, she suffered unexpected illness. “I had a medical problem with my nose and ears, and I had to stop,” she explains. “The only sport that would take me at this age — far too late, 16 — was rowing.”

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About Row360

Welcome to Row360, the world’s only global, independent rowing magazine. Row360 brings you features from around the world, profiling the best athletes, coaches, and others from the whole rowing community – Olympic, adaptive, college, club, ocean, and more.