Athlete of the Month - January 2010
Norway’s Olaf Tufte has an almost uncanny ability to put it all together when it really counts. Olaf has managed to nail the gold at the last two Olympic Games without doing a lot of winning in between. As a single sculler Olaf is known for his huge work ethic and huge work output. He’s a full time athlete, farmer and father who does not know how to stop. World Rowing is starting the new decade with Olaf – the all-time 2009 top male athlete. Read on to find out what Olaf was doing on Christmas and New Year’s day. Also find out what he is looking forward to on November 6.
World Rowing: Where are you at present?
Olaf Tufte: I just got home from five days in the mountains. Training on skis and staying in my new house/cabin in the mountains.
WR: What is your training focus at the moment?
OT: At the moment it’s getting back to where I was one year ago and I am on my way.
WR: Did you do a Christmas day workout? If so what did you do?
OT: I was at training at 7:30. I had 30 minutes on the cycle, 6x10min on the erg; heart rate up to 180 (beats per minute). Then 30 minutes cycle. Then home and work on the farm until 4pm and dinner at 5pm.
WR: What about New Year's Day? A day off?
OT: Not any days off. First practice: two-and-a-half hours skiing. Second practice: 30 minutes cycle, 4x12min erg with heart rate up to 175 (beats per minute), then 30 minutes cycle.
WR: Have you made any new year's resolutions?
OT: Do less besides rowing/farm and family life.
WR: Has the birth of your second child changed your perspective on rowing at all?
OT: Whatever change, it would be that I get less time to train. So when I do train, I have to do as much as possible in the time that I’ve got. But you also start to see that there’s more about life than rowing.
WR: How do you balance training and competing with family life?
OT: If I only had rowing and family, it would be easy. Everything else is what takes a lot of time and energy.
WR: What are you looking forward to most in 2010?
OT: To have a real big fight with Mahe (Drysdale) on Lake Karapiro on 6 November.
WR: Do you have plans to row in other boats besides the single?
OT: If my teammates would be good enough, I have said that I would try a double. But I won’t do that unless it’s good enough to win medals.
WR: If you could have dinner with any sportsperson you wanted, who would you choose? What would you talk about?
OT: I would first of all take out my good friend Iztok Cop (Slovenia). We are good friends from way back, but now both of us have families, we have had less time to enjoy ourselves. He is also one of the best rowers EVER. I would talk about solutions on different things. If it was someone outside rowing, then maybe Tiger Woods. We would talk about things on the mental plan and how he sees things and how he developed by watching other athletes. And maybe a few questions about women. ;-)
World Rowing catches up with Olaf Tufte as he trains down in Italy before competing in cross country skiing and starting the rowing season. Olaf explains what went wrong at the 2009 World Rowing Championships in Poznan, and shares the accomplishments he is most proud of.
World Rowing: Where are you now?
Olaf Tufte: At the moment I am in Seier Alm, in Italy. It’s in the Alps above Bolzano. It’s high altitude training on skis and ergs. I will be here until 31 January.
WR: What will be the first rowing regatta of the season for you?
OT: The first regatta will be the national opening on 23 to 24 April and then one or two more national regattas before the first Rowing World Cup.
WR: Will you do any competition in ski racing this winter?
OT: I am preparing for Vasaloppet (90km cross-country skiing) on 7 March. I’m not sure if I will be able to do any others because of our training schedule, but I hope to have a race or two before it, just to get the race pace into my body.
WR: You took part in the Great8 team in 2009, what did you learn most about your fellow single scullers?
OT: Learn?! That we are eight big egos and that we have the egos to manage to go together when it really matters. Even if we are eight good scullers, we are very different. Some are thinker, some are power users, and some are technique rowers, and we all have some of everything. Some are leaders, and others follow the group. The most important thing is that all of us are great at so many things and know a lot of what it takes to move a boat from A to B.
WR: Do you like to analyse your past races or do you prefer to move on and not look back?
OT: I always go through my races and take with me the good parts, if there are any, or look into what I could do differently. Then I train on these things. Then is the question, what’s good enough!?
WR: Looking back on 2009, your World Rowing Championships did not go as well as expected. Why do you think this was?
OT: This was a year without any rest and a crazy time schedule. I did so many things after Beijing and trained full time beside the farm, family, speeches and sponsor work and putting together TEAM TUFTE with younger rowers. All of this together took my energy. I wanted to do it all. I knew it was a big risk to do this but I wanted to get everything on track for the next four years and now I think I have managed to do that.
During the World Cups I felt that things were not great, but on the results everybody thought I was doing well. It was no surprise for me that my body stopped. But when I came all the way to the Worlds with medals all the way (from three World Cups), I hoped my body would let me go one more week with good rowing. But no! It’s the survival instinct: when you see the end of it, you fall down. Maybe this was a good thing for me? What would I do if I rowed okay and took a medal? Just kept pushing on with all the things I am doing? Now I had to think and relax for a few months. I’m still not sure if I am totally recovered, but am in good training and hungry!
WR: In the last interview you mentioned you would like to talk to Tiger Woods about mental planning. How do you mentally prepare for a big race?
OT: I row my races 100 times before entering the start. The bigger the race, the more times I have raced it before the start. We know each other very well, all of us that are in the World Cup races, so there are never any big surprises. But first of all, I prepare my main focus for that race. World Cup races are all just training for the big race at Worlds. That’s how I build up. The final World Cup is the most important training race for me. It’s hard, because I hate not to win and sometimes your body is just not ready to do max during a race after all of the training. That’s mentally hard, when you know that you could do better. But it’s all for a reason...
WR: What do you do in the hour before a big race?
OT: Go through my race plans, eat so I have energy and do a long warm up. I need that.
WR: What is your proudest accomplishment in rowing? Outside of rowing?
OT: In rowing it is absolutely Beijing; Coming back after asthma and injury from the years between the Olympic Games. It’s been hard work and so many people have been helping me to do all the right things. Without all of the wider support and the support team and family, I would never have managed to do it. This gold was a team effort.
Outside of rowing, it is my two kids and my wife. I worked hard to get my wife. She is the perfect wife in all ways so am really glad I never gave up on her. She gave me a hard time to catch her; a good job from me. ;-) And now our two kids, that’s so much more than winning medals. But then again I am really lucky and happy that I can combine those two things and that’s thanks to my wife and the rest of my family.
WR: At this stage do you plan to be at the start line of the 2012 Olympics?
OT: See you there!