Athlete of the Month - July 2011
He is quietly spoken, but has the fire to make a boat go fast. Chile’s Miguel Cerda Silva is World Rowing’s Athlete of the Month for July. Miguel talks to us about the nature of rowing in Chile, fixing up people’s pets at his home and his long European season that means missing out on seeing the birth of his son. World Champion Miguel began his third decade of competitive rowing and still maintains the hope and enthusiasm that keeps his boat going fast and faster.
World Rowing: How did you first get interested in rowing?
Miguel Cerda Silva: Some schoolmates were rowing and invited me to one of the three rowing clubs of Valdivia, a club with a very long tradition as it was founded in 1880. Valdivia is really good for rowing; the river flows in the middle of the city and all inhabitants can see the athletes training. That’s mostly how young people get interested in our sport. I started when I was 13 and this was not my first sport. I had already been playing football, basketball and I did some athletics.
The very first time I went to the rowing club I immediately loved it. It’s a beautiful club on an island around which you can row and you have 30km upstream or 15km downstream to the sea. Rowing in Chile is very nice in spring and summer but much more challenging in winter as there are tourbillions (whirlwinds). Therefore we supplement rowing in winter with strength training, the ergometer and running.
WR: When you tell people in Chile that you are a rower, what is their reaction?
MCS: In Valdivia people know and understand rowing but in the North of Chile they confuse rowing with canoe or kayak. In my city, people even know me but not in the rest of the country. Rowing is not regularly shown on TV but when you win a big race or international event it’s on. On a regular basis, rowing is more in the local papers.
WR: How do you describe rowing to someone that does not know it?
MCS: I would say that rowing is a very hard sport but also a very beautiful one. It allows you to be alone with yourself and think about your life, your plans. Rowing is a way of living, it’s a learning experience for life itself.
WR: You raced at the 1990 World Rowing Championships and then did not race internationally until 1998. What was the reason for the gap from international racing?
MCS: Actually after 1990, I was still rowing but not in Europe. I competed in Chile, the Pan-American Games and the qualification races for Atlanta (Olympics). I was not successful, unfortunately. Then, thanks to FISA’s help and Ricardo Ibarra, we made a plan to come back to Europe.
In 1998, our lightweight men's pair was very good and we went to the World Championships and the Holland Beker (Amsterdam). We were constantly thinking about international rowing but, as you know, it takes time to make a good rower. You need the technique and a very good training programme. But our results showed that we took the right approach. Thanks to our bronze medal (at the 1998 World Rowing Championships) we received government money to buy boats and to travel. It's like that in our country: you will only receive money once you booked results. And we confirmed one year later with our silver medal at the World Championships and our gold in Seville (2002)!
WR: What was your inspiration to come back in 2010 after a three-year break?
MCS: This year we'll have the Pan-American Games which are very important for the government in Chile and of course also for us! Although the level is quite high, there are more possibilities to get a medal than in the Olympic Games. A medal means media interest and it is a real good promotion for rowing. The more people know about our sport, the more will hopefully be interested.
I especially hope that a medal for Chile might motivate young people. It's very important to me because the larger the base of rowers is, the more chances you have to bring some to the international level. But, at the Pan-American Games, there is only one lightweight event, the four. We therefore decided to switch to the open class this season. Of course, I would also love to go to the Olympic Games and we'll see how the qualification regatta will go this year. We have the potential. My partner is young, only 23, it is only the second time he comes to Europe and he needs race experience.
WR: Do you enjoy not having to do pre-race weigh-ins?
MCS: Surely! Switching to open class is much more relaxing in a way as you don't have to struggle to keep your weight anymore.
WR: Have you changed your training at all because you are now rowing in the open class?
MCS: No, I did not change it dramatically. It’s mostly the same training programme, except for a little more strength training as well as longer distance training. We had good results as lightweights and I'm confident that if we have a good boat we can book good results. We just train even a little bit more than before. On an average, I would say about 180km a week, sometimes even a little bit more, together with some more strength training and the ergometer.
WR: Describe your typical day at present?
MCS: I wake up at 7am and have training from 8 til 10. I then come back home, take some rest, and, if there is some work, I'll do it but you know, I only have one or two hours maximum a day for working. At 5pm I have another training session until 7pm before I go back home. Saturday and Sunday are lighter, with only one training a day.
WR: I understand you are a veterinarian. How does this fit into your rowing training?
MCS: I have a little practice at home and sometimes my neighbors come with pets, but that’s mainly it. Most of my time is devoted to rowing for the moment. It will be time to work as a veterinarian afterwards…
WR: How do you fit rowing into your family life?
MCS: My family are my best fans. They stay up in the night til 2 or 3am to watch my races on the internet. It helps a lot and I feel they are with me. My father, mother and sisters were with me in Seville when we won the World Championships. All of them are very involved although none of them are rowing. My dad loves rowing and what I achieve but was a football player himself and did athletics. It's with him that I started playing football when I was very young. In August I'll be the proud father of my first child, a son. I will not be there for the birth, which might be while I'm in Bled but my partner is also a rower and she understands it very well. That will motivate me even more!
WR: Where are you for July?
MCS: We took the train to Munich (after the Samsung World Rowing Cup in Hamburg). Then we head to Lucerne (World Cup III). Then back to Munich to train for the World Rowing Championships in Bled. The season abroad is very long this year and even after Bled I will directly go to Mexico for the Pan-American Games. This means I will only meet my son when he is one or two months old. My partner might come with him to Mexico.
World Rowing: Where are you at present?
Miguel Cerda Silva: I’m in Munich.
WR: Will you stay there until Bled?
MCS: Yes, I'm training here until Bled.
WR: Do you have any races that you will take part in before Bled?
MCS: We aren’t competing in any more races. We are only training.
WR: What has been your hardest training session this month?
MCS: This last Sunday, we did five times 2,000m. It was very hard! But I think that even harder days are still to come!
WR: Have you had any testing (on or off the water)?
MCS: No, so far we haven’t had any tests, but next week there will be an ergometer test.
WR: Are you doing any cross-training?
MCS: We are doing strength training and some running mixed with rowing.
WR: What do you do in-between training?
MCS: Rest primarily. Also reading, watching movies on the computer and speaking with my family through Skype.
WR: What's your favourite way to relax?
MCS: Here in Munich I like to go downtown, to the shops and visit different places in the city and try to forget about rowing!
WR: Being away from home for so long, is there something that you keep with you when you travel to remind you of home?
MCS: I prefer not to bring anything because after a month I just want to go home and anything that reminds me of home only increases that desire. Luckily with Skype I can see my house and my family every day!
WR: Where can you be found before an important race?
MCS: Near my boat going over the last details and waiting to go on the water.
WR: Do you sleep well the night before an important race?
MCS: Yes, I sleep well. Usually I talk to my partner about race strategy and I am thinking about it until I fall asleep. It is a way for me to concentrate and relax at the same time.
WR: Now that you are racing in the men's pair is there a current pair that you look to try and row like? Or do you have a rower that you admire?
MCS: The rowing styles of each boat are all so different according to their physical characteristics, so I think for me is to follow the form of rowing that has given me results until now. I always admired Alberto Demiddi (ARG) because it was the closest example of international rowing I had since childhood. All he managed globally from South America remains an example of motivation for countries like mine. Of the current rowers I admire the passion for rowing and leadership of Eskild Ebbesen (DEN), and perseverance, simplicity and spirit of overcoming different challenges of Ekaterina Karsten (BLR).
WR: Tell us about your future plans? Will you be rowing after London 2012?
MCS: My plan for the near future is to get finish well at the 2011 World Rowing Championships in Bled and medal at the Pan American Games. Rowing after London 2012? Just recreational!