Athlete of the Month - September 2018
Estonian sculler Kaspar Taimsoo is a three-time European Champion, an Olympic bronze medallist, a three-time World Championship bronze medallist - and has his sights on more. He’s a busy man off the water too and Taimsoo tells us how he balances rowing with a job in the defence forces, study and a long list of adventurous hobbies.
World Rowing: How did you get into rowing?
Kaspar Taimsoo: I began rowing when I was only 7 years old. That means I’ve been at it for about 24 seasons already. Crazy when you start to think about it, actually. My mum and my first coach are good friends, so I remember that one day when Ruth was visiting us, my mother asked me if I would like to go to the local rowing club for trainings and I was like “Ok, why not.” So, it appears I’m still there. The thing I still enjoy the most, and the reason I liked it so much, is the connection one gets with nature. Early morning or late evening sessions on the lake are still my favourites. Fog in the morning or light rain in the evening are definitely my favourite settings for training.
WR: Why have you moved between the double and the quad this season?
KT: I’ve had the privilege to race with the younger guys in our team for this season. The usual Estonian quadruple line-up has been pretty strong for the last few seasons, so it’s been my responsibility this season to give some of the younger guys a chance get some top level experience. The problem is that there are only about six or seven rowers to make boat seating combinations with. So we have to play it smart and think long term. If it has paid off - or not - we will most likely find out at the Tokyo 2020 and/or Paris 2024.
WR: Is that why this year has been a tough one for the Estonian quad in terms of results?
KT: The results, yes, haven’t been anything spectacular this season, so the team decided not to race in a quadruple this year. I’m sure the Estonian quad will be back in the big game next year. Not so many countries keep racing in the men’s quad but the field is closer than ever in the terms of results.
WR: What has been your favourite race ever?
KT: It has to be one of the races I did with Allar Raja in the double in 2009. It was the first breakthrough season for me and we did really well too. The year overall was a blast - we got to race some of the legendary crews from Germany (Knittel, Krueger) and France (Bahain, Berrest) and they were all really close races! We shared the World Championships medals with only 0.8 seconds.
WR: What is it like to win Olympic medals, compared with other medals?
KT: The breakthrough point for rowing for me was the 2012 season. If you finish fourth in the Olympics, it can’t get worse than that. From that moment, the only thing that really mattered was an Olympic medal. Of course, every medal we’ve ever won has a story behind it but, in rowing, history is written at the Olympics. That said, I don’t have any golds from the World Championships so I can’t be too sure about that. Would Hamish Bond say the same?
WR: What is the most important lesson you have learned in your rowing career?
KT: To see success in failure.
WR: What will you do over winter?
KT: Winter and spring pre-seasons are one of the reasons I think I’m still at it after 24 years. To keep it fun one can do not only rowing but a lot of gym, cross country skiing, cycling, football, swimming, badminton and, our all-time favourite, the erg.
WR: What is your favourite type of cross training?
KT: Yet to try this one out but I’m pretty sure Cross-Fit training can be good for the winter season. Will let you know J
WR: You’re also a diver. What do you like about it and does it use any of your rowing skills?
KT: I’m still a novice diver, but what I like most about it is that as rowers, we get to travel a lot and being a certified diver gives me options for local tourism. Like in Florida for the World Champs last year, I woke up at 4:30am the day after the final and drove for an hour to go diving at 6am and look for fossilised shark teeth at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. The skillset I think I can use from rowing is risk management – the ability to stay calm when things are tricky and challenging. Being at 30 meters deep with the bottom at 300 meters can be quite ... interesting. You can see more on Instagram @taimsoo.
WR: Are you a full-time rower or do you work or study as well?
KT: I’m enlisted in the Estonian Defence Forces. As far studies go, I’ve taken some courses at the university. For now, I cannot imagine being able to be a full-time student.
WR: What do you do for fun?
KT: You can find me cycling in the city with my girlfriend, skydiving, diving, windsurfing or playing on the combat flight simulator at my computer. I’m a big aviation enthusiast and I try to keep myself informed daily. I used to do photography as well but a lack of time and motivation has put this hobby on hold for now.
What sports person do you most admire?
That’s a tricky one. I think this has to be the coach of Usain Bolt, Glen Mills. He doesn’t say much but when he does, it’s pure gold.