Athlete of the Month – September 2016
This year marks Tonu Endrekson’s twentieth year of international rowing. These years have seen him go from the junior championships in 1996 through to the Olympic Games in 2016. In that time Endrekson has competed in four Olympic Games and never missed a year of competition. In that time Endrekson has also secured an Olympic silver (in the double with Estonia’s best known rower, Jueri Jaanson) and a bronze last month at the Rio Olympic Games in the quadruple sculls. Directly back from Rio, World Rowing is very proud to present Endrekson and our September Athlete of the Month.
World Rowing: How did you discover rowing?
Tonu Endrekson: Discovering rowing was my classmates fault. Going back to school again after a long summer holiday, he persuaded me to try. But after couple of years, rowing wasn't so attractive for me anymore. I had already given up, but coach came to my home and convinced me to continue. I am most grateful to him for that.
WR: Did you practice any other sports before rowing?
TE: I played football for a couple of years. Short term sports were volleyball, tennis, and basketball.
WR: What led you to focus on sculling as opposed to sweep rowing?
TE: I started 1992 with the same classmate who dragged me into this. Our first boat was a double sculls. Those who want to become elite athletes (in Estonia) often choose sculling. In my case I think the coach saw me as a single sculler and so I focused on that.
WR: You have experienced most of your successes in the men’s quadruple sculls. What makes this boat particularly suitable to you?
TE: Actually I prefer the double scull. But yes, time has shown that teamwork and big boat seams more suitable for me. I enjoy training alone in single scull, but still I haven't found the best connection with this boat. So doubles and quads are my boats.
WR: You raced at 11 World Rowing Championships and won four World Championship medals, all of them bronze. What has pushed you to carry on rowing for so many years?
TE: The main reason is the missing two gold medals from my collection. But of course I enjoy rowing and all that goes with the lifestyle.
WR: For many years you were a crewmate of Thomas Keller Medal winner Jueri Jaanson until he retired from competitive rowing. How would you describe the relationship that you had on and off the water?
TE: I think we managed quite well. His self-discipline was very high All that he demanded from others, he expected also from himself. He’d teach and I learned! Off the water we did not communicate much. We didn't had similar interests but on the water we were very good and highly motivated team.
WR: What is your most memorable sporting achievement to date and why?
TE: Winning a silver medal in Beijing Olympics is definitely the most memorable moment. When two crews cannot separate for 2000m and the silver medal decided on last stroke, that's the moment I won't forget!
WR; Throughout the years, you have raced against many crews. Which opponents made the strongest impression on you?
TE: Definitely the Polish quadruple sculls. From 2005 to 2009 they were unbeatable.
WR: What would you say are your main strengths and weaknesses?
TE: I think my strengths are high motivation and quite good rowing technique. No gold medal yet, so I must have some weaknesses also! Physically ( strength and endurance) I have to get better.
WR: How is rowing perceived in Estonia?
TE: Rowing gets pretty good attention in Estonia. It`s not so popular like ball games but we keep our level.
WR: Did you receive much national media coverage after medalling in Rio?
TE: We were the only medal winners from our country. So yes, we got a lot of attention. Very pleasant but also tiring.
WR: What hobbies do you have outside of rowing?
TE: My hobby is my family. Outside of rowing, my wife and two kids (hopefully in October it will be three) get my full attention. This is a guarantee that there’s no worries about getting bored.
WR: What is your profession?
TE: I graduated University of Tartu, Faculty of Physical Education in 2003. Beside being professional rower, I`m an instructor in the Estonian Defence Forces.
WR: If you were an animal, what would you be and why?
TE: Not sure but maybe an eagle. I would like to fly high and show everyone that I control this area. Highly motivated and focused on target.
WR: What can always be found in your fridge?
TE: Definitely ice cream.
WR: You have raced at four Olympic Games, your first at Athens 2004 and lately at Rio 2016. What are your strongest memories?
TE: The first time is always the hardest. It wasn't so hard physically but rather mentally. From Beijing the greatest memory, beside medal ceremony, was definitely the Great Wall of China. It shows no limits to human abilities. The biggest impression in London was setting up our own small and compact Olympic Village. From Rio I will certainly remember quite changeable weather conditions at the rowing venue.
WR: How do you see life after Rio?
TE: Nothing will change for me a lot. In October I will start my new training period, with the same goal, to be first!