Athlete of the Month - June 2012
A core group of rowers make up the backbone of Italian rowing. Lorenzo Carboncini is one of those. Lorenzo has been racing internationally for the past 19 years and never took time off from the sport. The Olympic silver medallist and ten-time world medallist is currently preparing for his fourth Olympic Games - this time in the men’s pair – and Carboncini is up there with great medal prospects. He talked to World Rowing during the recent Samsung World Rowing Cup in Lucerne.
World Rowing: Tell us a bit about your background in rowing.
Lorenzo Carboncini: I started rowing in 1986 when I was nine years old. The rowing club in my hometown (Societá Canottieri Limite) is very famous since it is the oldest rowing club in Italy. Apparently it was founded in 1861 – the same year as the Italian Reunification happened. It is a very popular sport in my hometown. All the young guys start rowing but most of them quit after a couple of years. There were just a few of us left when I was around 18 years old.
WR: Was there a point (or an event) when you decided to take rowing more seriously and become an elite rower?
LC: For me at the beginning it was more like a game and just for fun, but the older I got the more I wanted to train harder and to specialise in the sport. My favourite boats at that time were the pair and the coxless four.
WR: You've competed every year internationally since 1993, what is the longest time you have spent out of the boat?
LC: Actually since I started rowing in 1986 I have constantly participated in regattas. So far I haven’t had any year without training or regattas.
WR: What has been your career highlight so far?
LC: I think the silver medal in the coxless four during the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney was the most important point in my career. There are several other World Championships and other international regattas that were nice but, of course, an Olympic medal is always very special. I liked the entire atmosphere during the Olympics in Sydney. It was a really nice event.
WR: You have participated in three Olympics – Atlanta, Sydney and Beijing. How were the conditions – especially the climate – in Bejing?
LC: Of course it was not an easy climate in Beijing since it was pretty hot and humid. But we expected it to be like that. But apart from that, thinking back to Beijing I don’t have really nice memories. We did not really reach the result we expected.
WR: What brings you back to rowing year after year?
LC: I just like rowing. It’s a passion. I don’t mind about training hard, I really like it actually. It just gets more difficult when you have a family. My two kids (eight and three-years-old) keep me busy all the time. Sometimes I struggle to combine it all, especially when I am absent for several weeks. Fortunately when I am away my wife accompanies me and my parents take care of my children.
I am lucky to be part of the “Gruppo Sportivo Fiamme Oro” – the support programme for athletes of the police. They support me financially so I can concentrate on my training which is good.
WR: How did it happen that you started to row in the pair with Niccolo Mornati?
LC: It happened rather accidentally. We were in the same training group and just tested several boats and combinations. So first we were together in the coxless four in 2002 and then in 2005/2006 in the eight. In 2010 we decided to try the pair since considering character and technique we are quite similar. It worked well from the beginning and we continued training together. We are a bit like a married couple – harmony and discussions included.
WR: With the domination of the New Zealand pair have you ever thought of swapping to another event?
LC: Well, they have shown a really high level and a good performance. It is like that in sports. If a crew is strong and gives a great performance they deserve the success. They’re going for gold which is fair enough. We will try to give the best anyway.
WR: Where will you be in June for rowing and will you compete at any races?
LC: Unfortunately due to illness we had to change our plans and withdraw from the World Rowing Cup in Belgrade. We will see what’s coming next. We have planned to go to the Munich World Rowing Cup.
WR: What is a typical day like for you?
LC: When I am at home a typical day means breakfast with my family, bringing my daughter to school and my younger son to my parents, going to the first training session, picking the kids up for having lunch together, bringing them back to school / to my parents, second training session, picking the kids up again and then having dinner together with the entire family / having some family time.
WR: What do you like to do outside of rowing?
LC: I am passionate about golf. I started playing it in 2001 and right now my handicap is seven. I would love to participate in competitions because I need the challenge, but normally a golf tournament takes about five hours. I just don’t have that time. I only can dedicate my free time to golf in the winter months when the time management for the rowing training is a bit more flexible.
WR: You are writing a blog (http://lorenzocarboncini.com/). Tell us a bit about that.
LC: It was suggested to me to start this blog. Normally I’m not good in these things; I don’t have Twitter or Facebook. I thought it’s a nice way to keep my supporters updated about my progress. I try to write about one article per week. But, especially when I am at home with my family, I don’t have that much time and it gets difficult to update it constantly.
World Rowing managed to catch up with Carboncini in between the very tight racing schedule at the Samsung World Rowing Cup in Munich, Germany. Luckily Carboncini was able to spare a few minutes after his heat where he, with partner Niccolo Mornati, finished second to the New Zealanders in the men’s pair.
World Rowing: How was your heat race in Munich?
Lorenzo Carboncini: It went the way it went. We didn’t really expect to beat the Kiwis. We are satisfied about the way we improved in the last weeks since we have passed a difficult period (of training). We were not really happy with the race in Lucerne though. We knew we could do better and we were not able to transfer our motivation we had during the training in the race.
WR: Where do you go after Munich?
LC: After the World Cup in Munich we will go to Livigno (Italy) to do a high-altitude training camp for four weeks. So this will be more-or-less our pre-Olympic base. The Italian team usually goes to Livigno for training camps in July/August before the World Championships so we have known the course for a while.
WR: Coming into your fourth Olympic Games, what are your thoughts and feelings?
LC: I am looking forward to the race. We are really focused on the training and the races.
WR: Lately who do you spend more time with, your wife or Niccolo?
LC: I have definitely spent more time with Niccolo. I think in the last three months I was home for one week. My wife and my children will come to Livigno for a while and they are coming to London as well.
WR: If your wife was sitting here, how would she describe your rowing obsession?
LC: I think my wife is alright with it. She knows how much I like rowing and how important it is for me since it is my passion. It is difficult for her sometimes though to combine everything – the kids, work, etc.
WR: In the pair what roles do you and Niccolo have?
LC: In his position he can overlook the race better than I do so he is a more involved into the tactics. My task is definitely to pass on the rhythm and to do exactly what he is doing.
WR: Being your first Olympics in the pair how will it be different from racing in the eight or the four?
LC: I don’t think that there is a particular difference in the boats. Of course they all have several ‘requirements’ and you need different technical skills for each boat class. But mentally it is all the same and the same pressure during every race.
WR: What is the media interest like in Italy on you and your lead up to the Olympics?
LC: Fortunately it is slowly getting started. Of course, compared to the favourite Italian sport (football) rowing is still not covered every day but it’s getting more and more. I have interview requests sometimes.
WR: What are you looking forward to most about the London Olympics?
LC: Well, it is a big event. But after three Olympics it is of course another thing as at your first Olympics. I am very focused on the regatta this time.
WR: Will you try and see any other sports?
LC: I have not thought about that at all right now. I think I just don’t have the time to do it. We don’t have that much free time and the spare time we got I would like to spend with my family.
WR: Will you be part of the Opening Ceremony?
LC: I would love to but it is very close to the first heats. Probably it’s just too stressful and too distracting.
WR: What about after the Olympics, any plans?
LC: Shortly after the Olympics I will try to relax a bit. Then in September there are the Italian National Championships where we would like to row. I try to stay in shape for it. After that I will take some time to reflect on my further rowing career. I have not thought about that yet.