Athlete of the Month – February 2016
Lithuania’s Mindaugas Griskonis may sometimes slip under the radar, his talent is unquestionable. Griskonis has been competing in the men’s single sculls ever since he was a junior rower. He has lined up in the single at two Olympic Games and since the London Games, he has broken into the exclusive pack of top six single scullers in the world – never missing an A-Final at any World Rowing regatta.
Last season, Griskonis won his first World Championship medal - a bronze – staying in close contact with the top two contenders Ondrej Synek and Mahe Drysdale throughout the race. The three rowers were out of reach from the rest of the field.
Griskonis is also the winner of three European Championship titles as well as a silver and bronze.
Discover more about this talented athlete, who also owns and manages a transport company as he prepares for the Rio Olympic Games.
World Rowing: How did you discover rowing?
Mindaugas Griskonis: Both my parents were rowers some years ago. When I was ten years old, they asked me to help as a coxswain in a master’s boat. I liked it and at 13 I returned to the rowing centre to play basketball. That was how I found the path to rowing.
WR: You have spent most of your rowing career in the single. Why this boat class in particular?
MG: Because I like to be the king in the boat. I do not need to motivate other team members, I am responsible for my boat and it is my personal result.
WR: You won your first international medal in 2007, at the World Rowing Under 23 Championships - silver. What did this mean to you at the time?
MG: It was fun and pleasure, the first medal is always very impressive and unforgettable.
WR: Later that same year, you went on to win your first European Championship medal – the first of five medals so far, three of them gold. Of all of these European Championship podiums, which result is your favourite?
MG: The most memorable was in Belgrade, Serbia in 2014. It was a very fast final, and the competition was good with Ondrej Synek, Marcel Hacker, Alan Campbell, Stanislau Shcharbachenia and others. Even though it was bronze, these are my favorite European Championships so far.
WR: Since London 2012, you have systematically been an A-finalist in the men’s single sculls, at all World Rowing regattas that you entered. What factors played a role in moving you into the top six single scullers in the world?
MG: I think it is because now we have a strong under-23 team (in Lithuania) and it helps a lot during training here. In the past I had no training partner and it was very difficult. [Consulting coach] Gianni Postiglione helps a lot in obtaining high-level results.
WR: Next year, you will be competing at your third Olympic Games. In Beijing and London, you finished eighth. What is your hope for Rio?
MG: I want to have the best final race in my career.
WR: How would you describe your main rivals in the men’s single sculls?
MG: I think I do not need to describe them. All of them are respectable and serious opponents in a race: from first to the last entered rower.
WR: What would you say are your main strengths?
MG: My genetics.
WR: Who is your coach in Lithuania?
MG: Robertas Tamulevicius
WR: Do you study or work outside of rowing?
MG: I have finished university and am now working. I have a bachelor’s (degree) from the Lithuanian University of Educational Sciences and am a physical education teacher. I currently study at Mykolas Romeris University for a Master’s degree in public administration. I own my own transport company and am currently running this business too.
WR: What is a typical day of training like for you?
MG: Training- working- training- sleeping. I like regattas, because then instead of working I have more time to sleep. I have not changed anything in my training compared to non-Olympic years.
WR: What is your personal best on the erg machine?
WR: What is the status of rowing in Lithuania?
MG: Since 2013 it is at a very high level. Rowers are always in the top rating amongst all sports in Lithuania.
WR: How do you see yourself in ten years’ time?
MG: Handling my business and working as a coach in parallel.