Malte and Anastasiya Winkel were concerned that their marriage might suffer if they teamed up in the 470 mixed dinghy together. But they decided to take the risk anyway.

Currently, they’re fighting tooth and nail, not with each other, but against their training partners and teammates also fighting for the right to represent Germany at Paris 2024 this summer.

Currently the Winkels trail Simon Diesch and Anna Markfort in the German trials, although the final of three events is yet to come, the 470 European Championship in Cannes in the south of France, taking place in early May.


It was the 470 that brought Malte and Anastasiya together a decade ago. While representing her home country of Ukraine at the 2014 Junior European Championships, Anastasiya met her future husband Malte, who was competing for Germany. After starting a long-distance relationship, she moved to Germany in 2016 and became a naturalised citizen in 2021.

Anastasiya went to the Tokyo 2020 Games with Luise Wanser and were it not for an unfortunate measurement disqualification from their two opening races, they might well have won a medal at the Games. As it was, this young team still managed sixth overall.

But with the men’s and women’s 470 disciplines subsequently merged into the 470 mixed dinghy for the new Olympic cycle, Wanser and Anastasiya were forced to go their separate ways. The Winkels knew they had the technical skills to create a good 470 team, although that didn’t necessarily mean it was a good idea.

After Anastasiya initially brought up the suggestion, Malte admits: “I immediately declined it, I thought I would never risk the marriage for sailing. I knew from my career already, sailing even with a good friend of mine was hard. I didn’t want to risk our relationship, but somehow Anastasiya was able to convince me.”

Anastasiya continues: “It wasn’t like I was trying to convince him every day! It was more about when it became clear that there would be mixed teams for the Olympics. We were both still in our Olympic campaigns, and it was undecided if we were going to the Games or not.”

The turning point came when Anastasiya’s team needed a temporary fill-in, and Malte stepped in. This experience was a revelation for both. “That was basically the game-changer,” Malte said. “It felt like we had a really similar idea on board of how to sail, and it just really, really felt nice. And that day… it might have been different if it hadn’t gone well! But it was a really good day.”

Despite their commitment to sailing together, they’ve faced plenty of challenging moments along the way, especially when it comes to separating their professional and personal lives. “On the water, we don’t talk as a couple, we talk as sailing partners,” Anastasiya explains. “In the beginning, it was difficult to accept that he was not as careful with his words as he usually is. He can be rude sometimes, but that doesn’t change his relationship with me.”


However, the couple soon realised that trying to completely separate their day-to-day relationship from their sailing partnership was not only impossible but also unnecessary. “We’ve talked a lot with our sports psychologist about it,” says Anastasiya. “It’s different for men and women, and sometimes I’ve taken something from the water back on shore, sometimes Malte has. We can’t always separate these two areas of our life, but we’ve come to the conclusion that that’s also totally okay.”

This unique situation has turned into one of their greatest advantages, Anastasiya believes. “One of our strengths is that we’re super open with each other. We directly say what we think and we don’t have hidden conflicts which eventually explode. Every kind of conflict resolves itself almost immediately.”

Reflecting on their journey and the motivation from missed opportunities at the Tokyo Olympics, Anastasiya says, “It showed me from one side that I’m definitely good enough to be in the running for a medal. Experiencing that atmosphere, the feeling and emotions of the people who were there on the podium – after that, I said to myself that I definitely want to feel that too.”

Looking ahead to the Paris 2024 Olympics, the significance of potentially winning a medal together is not lost on them. Having won a silver at the Olympic Test Event last summer, they have already shown they have the measure of conditions in Marseille.

Malte says: “Winning an Olympic medal together, as husband and wife, would be super special. When we won the silver medal at the Test Event, it has given us a lot of confidence.”

But first they have to win the German trials, and achieving that could prove every bit as hard as winning a medal at the Games.