Coming from Argentina, Cristian Rosso is part of a sport that is not well known in his native country. But when Cristian and partner Ariel Suarez finished fourth in the men’s double sculls at the Olympic Games in London, Cristian found that people on the street would recognise him. This has also been the incentive for Cristian and Ariel to continue training with the aim of getting a medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Athlete of the Month - October 2013
World Rowing: How did you first get into rowing especially as rowing is not a major sport in Argentina?
Cristian Rosso: I started rowing when I was 14. My dad had rowed as a teenager and when he found out that the municipal school of rowing had opened in Mar del Plata (my city), he took me to learn. Some years later, my brother Brian also began to row.
WR: Was there some point when you decided that you wanted to take rowing to an elite level?
CR: Yes, when I was in my last year of college. There I realised that I wanted to give it all to improve and try to become an elite rower, so I finished studying and I started training much more and I decided to put my professional work on hold.
WR: Are you a full time rower?
CR: Yes, I have the good fortune to be.
WR: How is rowing funded in Argentina?
CR: Argentinean sport had a big change some years ago with the foundation of Enard (the high performance sports agency) which came out of a law that established a tax on all holders of cellular telephone subscriptions. All of that money is intended to go to Olympic sports. Thanks to Enard, today Argentinean sport has all the tools to get international results. The athletes receive a scholarship according to the results achieved.
WR: Your 4th place at the London Olympics was the best result in rowing for a South American country. Was this recognised in Argentina?
CR: Yes we were recognised the first few weeks. Many people had seen us and knew that some guys in rowing had been near the medals. It created more interest in rowing with many new people wanting to learn to row.
WR: How do you describe rowing to people who don’t know the sport?
CR: I describe it as a wonderful sport that is generally practiced in spectacular locations. And I describe it as a complex sport, not hard to learn but you can always improve a little more.
WR: How do you think having the next Olympics in Rio will impact on rowing in Argentina?
CR: I think it has started to hit. Having the Olympics in Brazil almost makes it local for Argentina, so we all feel it is a great opportunity. From this year we have a new national coach and the entire Argentinean rowing aims to have several boats and get a medal in Rio.
World Rowing: Where are you at present?
Cristian Rosso: Now I am finally at home in my city Mar del Plata after several weeks of travel to Brazil to race and Buenos Aires where I trained, had rowing selection and raced at the Argentinean Rowing Championships.
WR: You mentioned that you are a member of the Rio club, Vasco de Gama. Do you train in Rio? Or where do you normally live and train?
CR: I normally live and train in Mar del Plata, 400 km south of Buenos Aires. But with Ariel (Suarez) we race for the Vasco da Gama (club) in Rio de Janeiro at the 2016 Olympic venue. We have six races there and we travel to Rio one week before each race to train in the specific boat.
WR: You have just competed in the Brazilian Rowing Championships. How did they go?
CR: In the Brazilian Championship I won the single, the double with Ariel, and in the eight we finish fifth which was a very good position as we competed with juniors who just started rowing a year ago. (Brazilian Rowing Federation link: http://www.remobrasil.com/ )
WR: Was the Brazilian Championships held at the same venue that the 2016 Rio Olympics will be held at?
CR: Yes it was. I think Rio will be a great Rowing Olympics Games, much work is still needed to become an Olympic venue but it has everything to become one and I have no doubt that it will be so. For us it's great that the Olympics take place in Rio. We know Lagoa Rodrigo da Freitas very well, we are used to competing there and we will feel like locals.
WR: You mentioned that the aim was for Argentina to medal in rowing at the Rio Olympics. Leading up to Rio will you (and Ariel) be doing anything different than the lead up to London?
CR: The new national coach is Jean Raymond Peltier. We have great confidence in him. We believe we are going to take the step up we need to get to an Olympic medal. Anything different that we do in these years will be what Jean sees fit to win in Rio, we are willing to obey everything in order to reach the target.
WR: Tell me a bit about your partnership with Ariel. How were the two of you chosen as the double? How do the two of you complement each other in the boat?
CR: We started as rivals in single. In 2010 we were very even in the single and the national coach decided to try the double and from then on we stayed together. Now we are friends. We have a great relationship in the boat and out of the boat too. We complement each other because of our differences in the personality, Ariel is more calm and I am more nervous. But the key in the boat is that Ariel has a lot of boat feel and I always agree with it.
WR: Do the two of you train much in a single or is it mainly in the double?
CR: We train all the year in the single. Until 2010 Ariel was faster, then we began to be more equal. Now we do not race too much in the single but if we did it would be a tough race.
WR: As Argentina has a small elite team, who do you use as competition (or compete against) in training and in regattas?
CR: We often train with my brother Brian who is very fast in the single. For the last three years the three of us have trained together.
WR: You mentioned that your studies are on hold at present. What are you studying?
CR: I am not studying any more. I graduated as a lawyer in 2006 and now I am not working because I decided to be a full time rower to be an Olympic Champion.
WR: What is something that is unique and special about rowing in Argentina compared to other countries?
CR: I do not know many other countries, but I think what identifies rowing in Argentina is that being a little known sport, clubs usually do not have much economic support and rowers do not have good equipment, so it is difficult. In the first few years everything is about passion. Once you start getting results things start to improve and you get better equipment and economic help.
WR: What is next on the rowing agenda for you?
CR: Now we are starting to train for the next season and the first regatta is the Odesur Games at Valparaiso, Chile in March.
WR: Any sporting mentors or heroes?
CR: My father and my trainer.