Athlete of the Month – August 2018
It’s been a great 2018 for Weronika Deresz of Poland so far with World Cup gold in the lightweight women’s double sculls in Lucerne and silver at the European Rowing Championships. The 32-year-old has also been successful in another field – a TV game show. She tells us how the pressure compares with a start line.
World Rowing: Congratulations on your results this season - what is your next goal and your long-term goal?
Weronika Deresz: The biggest goal this season is the World Championships in Plovdiv. Long term, it’s a medal in the Olympic Games in Tokyo. Every day when I wake up I think about what I need to do to make a step towards my dream.
WR: Where to you train?
WD: During the regatta season the whole of the Polish rowing team practises in the national rowing centre in Wałcz, which is a tiny city about 100k from Poznań. When I’m off season, I train in my hometown, Warsaw. In the northern part of the city there is an awesome 17km long canal with perfectly flat water.
WR: Are you are full time rower?
WD: Yes, I’m a full time rower thanks to the very efficient scholarship system that we have in Poland. I have also been a student on and off for the last ten years. I am currently completing my master’s degree.
WR: You’ve been rowing at the top level for more than ten years, how has the sport changed – and how have you?
WD: When I started practising 20 years ago, in the beginning I was using wooden oars and boat. Now the rowing equipment is high tech and many small details have improved and that has a huge impact on your final result. Rowing takes over the bigger part of my life - I have grown with this sport. Rowing has taught me to be well organised, patient and has also taught me what team work really means.
WR: What is the race you are most proud of?
WD: I was beside myself happy when I grabbed my first gold medal at the World Rowing Under 23 Championships. That day I started thinking that rowing could be my life’s path.
WR: Is there any race or result that was the most difficult?
WD: In each race the toughest part is first 2000m, just kidding. But seriously, the most difficult race for me was the semifinal at the Rio Olympic Games. We missed the Olympic final by one second and I was extremely upset at the time. I felt like it was the end of my big dream.
WR: You had success on a game show in Poland – can you tell us about the experience?
WD: Last year I took part in “Who wants to be a millionaire” and went out of the studio with a handsome sum of money. I love the show and always wanted to try it. It was a really stressful experience but, at the end of the day, I really enjoyed it and learnt some secrets about what big TV shows look like backstage.
WR: How did the pressure of the game show compare with the pressure of a rowing race?
WD: The pressure that I feel at the start line is a completely different feeling from the pressure I experienced during the TV show. When I’m about to begin a race, I feel confident about my skills, I know that I did fair workload during trainings and that I’m well prepared. In the TV show I was extremely stressed because you can never know what kind of questions will be given to you. Plus, when you realise that many millions are watching you at that moment, the fear that you can say something absolutely stupid and discredit yourself is appalling.
WR: What is your favourite type of training?
WD: I’m in love with cross country skiing which we practise a lot during the winter season. Besides that, I do enjoy rowing speed pieces with a high rate.
WR: Is there any training you do not enjoy?
WD: The worst thing that can happen to me is to be forced to do 6km erg test. I feel like I’m passing through hell during second half of distance.
WR: Which sports people do you most admire?
WD: I very much admire the Polish triathlete Robert Karaś, who is the current world champion and world record holder in the triple ironman (11.4km swimming, 540km biking, 126.6km running). Could you imagine this effort? This is the real man made of iron!
WR: What do you do when you are not rowing?
WD: In my free time I love to travel. One of my recent trips was to Nepal. I trekked to Mount Everest Base Camp, then Gokyo Ri via Cho La Pass. There is something magical for me when I’m able to face high mountains and be surrounded by raw beauty and the majesty of nature.