Athlete of the Month - May 2014
Donata Vistartaite is part of a small, but very successful group of Lithuanian elite rowers that have refused to go unnoticed on the international scene over recent years. For Vistartaite it began back in 2006 when she debuted on the world stage at the World Rowing Junior Championships, finishing a credible seventh overall in the women's single sculls. The following year she medalled at the same event. Moving up to the under-23 level, Vistartaite showed that the single was her forte by taking gold at the 2010 World Rowing Under 23 Championships. Vistartaite had truly arrived.
Vistartaite went on to row in the London 2012 Olympic Games in the single but a post-Olympic reevaluation saw her partner up with the young Milda Valciukaite in the double sculls. The result was phenomenal. Their first season together they went unbeaten and topped it off with a World Championship title. Who is the woman behind the striking blue eyes? Vistartaite talks to World Rowing about her start in rowing and her successful transition into the double.
World Rowing: To start off with could you tell us a bit about how you got into rowing.
Donata Vistartaite: Before I came to rowing I was doing athletics (middle distance 800-1000m) and I was quite good at it. Sadly my coach had to end this work and I was left to work alone for some time. Then a rowing coach came to our town to search for potential rowing talents. After one season of training I won the Lithuanian Junior Championships and was invited to move to a bigger city (Kaunas) to attend a sports boarding school and practice professionally. One year later I was already racing at the World Rowing Junior Championships.
WR: Where are you at present?
DV: Now we are practicing in Greece, but in few days we are going to Belgrade. After the European Championships we are planning to take a train to Trakai, Lithuania.
WR: If not rowing, what sport would you have chosen?
DV: I think I would be a middle distance runner.
WR: Your career entirely changed after the 2012 Olympics when you moved from the single to the double. What brought about this change?
DV: I think that there are a lot of reasons why. First, I was really mad at myself after the London Olympic Games. I was really not happy with my results and my rowing at that time. That gave me more motivation to work harder. Secondly, we started working with Gianni Postiglione and that brought our training to a whole new level. My coach, Algirdas Arelis, was very supportive during this transition period and that meant a lot to me. Lastly, but most importantly, was the fact that such a talented and strong a partner as Milda came along. I've never seen a more passionate rower than Milda. She’s a real fighter.
WR: How would you compare training and racing in a single to a double?
DV: Training and racing in double suits me much more than a single. In the team you always feel support of your partner, you can count on one another and it gives more motivation to push harder.
WR: Do you and Milda still train in singles?
DV: Yes, in early spring we train a lot in singles. It is a good tool to polish our skills.
WR: When did you realise that your double combination with Milda was going to
DV: From the beginning of our partnership we felt it was going well. In all head-to-head training we were quite fast against the men's single. But the turning point was at the European Championships in Seville last year. There we did our international debut and it was a great success (first).
WR: Tell us about your finals race at the 2013 World Rowing Championships when you won gold.
DV: That was one of the hardest races ever. Actually that was not the best rowing we ever did, I think that was because of huge stress. Even now, if we watch the replay of this race, it raises a question “how did we make that final sprint?!”
WR: Are you and Milda friends or is strictly about the rowing?
DV: I would say that we are somewhere in the middle.
WR: What is your role in the boat?
DV: My role in the boat is to motivate and support my partner. Mostly I do it by giving 100 per cent of my energy and trying to push as hard as it’s possible.
WR: What's your typical day like at the moment?
DV: I don’t want to sound trivial, but my day looks like most rowers' days – eat, sleep, row. In my free time I’m preparing for my bachelor's thesis, which I will have to defend right after the Europeans.
WR: What are you most looking forward to in the 2014 season?
DV: I’m really looking forward to competitions. To have a great time during the racing season and enjoy every moment of it!
WR: What do you imagine that you'll be doing in ten years’ time?
DV: I don’t like to plan much, but I definitely want to have a family and raise my kids. I will definitely be connected to rowing, to my true passion. Will I be competing? Only time will tell. I would like to have the medal every sportsperson dreams about hanging in my closet.