Athlete of the Month - March 2014
When having a conversation about the men's quadruple sculls, the conversation is not complete unless there's been mention of the Croatian men's quad. When you talk about the Croatian quad no one can overlook three-seat Damir Martin. Martin, 25, is the second oldest in the boat of David Sain and brothers Valent and Martin Sinkovic that came through together from under-23 success.
Rowing since he was 12 years old, Martin made his first national team as a 17-year-old junior and he's been on the Croatian team ever since. Martin talks to World Rowing in between his exam schedule about his destiny to become a rower, the magic of his quad and what his crew thinks of him.
World Rowing: Where are you at present and where will you be for the rest of March?
Damir Martin: I just arrived back from our training camp, so until the middle of April I'll be training in Zagreb (Damir's current residence).
WR: What is your current training focus?
DM: We are still training in singles and doubles in preparation for the Croatia Open regatta in Zagreb (in April). There we'll also row, for the first time this season, in our quad. Currently I do lots of weight lifting, long distance rowing, swimming and cycling.
WR: Tell us a bit about how you first got into rowing?
DM: I'm the youngest rower in my family. In my home town of Vukovar rowing is a traditional sport, so my parents met each other at the rowing club. After we moved to Zagreb in 1995, my older brother started to row. Before rowing I did swimming for four years and then in 2000, I decided to continue our family's traditional sport, rowing.
WR: Was there some turning point or event that made you decide that you wanted to be an elite rower?
DM: I think that every rower wants to become an elite rower. For me everything started in 2009 at the second World Rowing Cup in Munich. After just two weeks of training together in the quad we won against current World and Olympic Champions Poland. It was like a dream come true. Since 2005 everybody had admired the Polish quad and then came some kids from Croatia who beat them. It was an incredible feeling!
WR: If it wasn't rowing do you think you would be doing another sport at the top level?
DM: I'm sure that I'd be doing some sport. Probably some endurance sport like triathlon or cross-country skiing.
WR: Are you a full-time rower?
DM: Currently I'm studying at a sports school in Zagreb. I have one more year to go.
WR: Tell us about the first time your quad went for a row together.
DM: It was in 2009 after the first World Rowing Cup in Banyoles. We had finished 3rd and 4th in doubles so we tried to sit in the quad. On the fist training row together we did some pieces and it was quite awesome. We then did some races against the Slovenian crew with Iztok Cop in it and then the next stop was the second World Rowing Cup in Munich...
WR: When did your quad realise that you had something special as a line up?
DM: After winning on the 2nd World Rowing Cup in 2009 in Munich.
WR: What's been your favourite race so far and why?
DM: My favourite race was the final in 2010 on Lake Karapiro at the World Rowing Championships when we won our first world championships. The weather was bad and it was the hardest race ever, but it was worth it.
WR: Do you have a certain role in the boat?
DM: I make all the calls during the race and watch for other crews.
WR: What about outside of rowing, are you all friends or is it strictly a rowing relationship?
DM: We've known each other for long time. Valent and I were in the same class at school. The atmosphere in the boat is mostly good. We sometimes have some fights, but we always work it out.
WR: How would your team mates describe you?
DM: Hmm, I think that they are going to say that everything has to be perfect for me and that it's not easy to row with me because I always have to argue about something.
World Rowing: Describe your current training location in Zagreb.
My rowing sessions are held on our regatta course Jarun. It's a standard regatta course of 2km. Off-water sessions are held in our own clubs where they have all of the ergs and weights.
WR: What is your typical day like?
DM: My first session starts at 8am. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays it's usually weight lifting training. After that I go rowing or cycling, just steady state for about 90 minutes. In the afternoon I usually row for 16k or go swimming for 90 minutes. Tuesdays and Thursdays in the morning I do some pieces or long distance in the single. Saturday morning I usually do a long (over 180 minutes) steady state session combined with rowing, cycling and running.
WR: What's been your hardest training session so far this month?
DM: Oh it was swimming. I did some high intensity pieces. I thought I was going to drown.
WR: You were a swimmer before you started rowing. Is there anything about swimming that you think helps in rowing?
DM: It is an good alternative to do cardio if you are sick of erging and indoor cycling. I have kept a good relation with my swimming coach, Pero Kuterovac who is an expert in the physiology of sport and also an important part of my team.
WR: You mentioned that your parents rowed. Do they remain involved?
DM: My father now coaches at a rowing school (he coaches kids aged 11 to 14) and he is still a masters rower. When I was younger he gave me a lot of advice but now we have swapped roles. My mum looks after everything else. I think that we couldn't survive a month without her! They are my biggest supporters.
WR: When you're not rowing what's your favourite past-time?
DM: I think that most of rowers have the same favourite past-time. It's sleeping!
WR: With your quad such a stable line up do the four of you still have to go through trials to earn your seat in the boat?
DM: Unfortunately, no. I think that it would be better if we had more competitive rowers. When we are in singles we always race against each other. Mostly it's the same line up on the finish line. But we try to push ourselves faster, because if we are fast in singles and fast in doubles, we are going to be faster in the quad.
WR: Having already been successful in the quad, what motivates you to keep training hard?
DM: We have to work hard, that's why we are successful. We enjoy the competition. We know that we are not the strongest and the biggest in the field, so we try to row technically as perfect as we can. We've had some races come close to perfect, but we are still waiting for that 'One.' Also we have some unfinished business from 2012, so until we finish it, we are probably in the quad.
WR: Who is going to be the fastest single at the Croatian Open?
DM: The one who cross the finish line at first, of course. The last four years it was me, but every year it is harder to stay in front. It's our first race in singles after the winter so we don't know how it's going to end. Every year the line up for the final gets stronger and stronger. I always give it the best and hope it will be enough to win.
WR: What's your goal for the 2014 season?
DM: To work hard, to have fun and to avoid any kind of injury.