Athlete of the Month - October 2015
Perhaps one of the happiest crews at the 2015 World Rowing Championships was the Italian men's four when they crossed the line in the gold medal position. Sitting in stroke seat was 22 years old, Giuseppe Vicino.
Since starting to row at the age of 13, Vicino has amassed a number of junior and under-23 medals. After collecting World Rowing Cup and European Rowing Championship medals in recent years, the win in the men's four gave Vicino his first senior World Championship title.
A respected athlete among the Italian rowing team and an athlete who has deep respect for his teammates, World Rowing got to know more about this promising Neapolitan athlete who hopes to still be rowing by the time the 2028 Olympic Games come around.
World Rowing: When did you start rowing? How did you discover the sport?
Giuseppe Vicino: My career as a rower started in 2006, at the age of 13. I knew nothing about this sport until my younger brother Antonio started rowing at the CRV Italia rowing club through a school initiative. I soon joined the club too and instantly fell in love with the boats, which glided so smoothly over such a large body of water. I just felt the immediate urge to jump into a boat and try it for myself.
WR: Did you practice any other sports before you began to row?
GV: I actually played soccer for a number of years before starting to row, but I wasn’t very good and never fell in love with the sport. I was mostly playing soccer to spend time with my friends, but then started swimming instead as it was more in tune with my physique. That lasted two years before it started conflicting with school hours.
WR: What makes rowing special to you?
GV: Rowing gives me a feeling of peace and tranquility that other sports can’t give you. Being immersed in nature, listening to the sound of water flowing around the hull with every stroke, makes you feel light, almost like you are flying like angels.
WR: How popular is rowing in your hometown, Naples?
GV: Rowing has a long history and tradition in Naples, especially with legends like the Abbagnale brothers growing the sport nationally. Their amazing results helped spread the reach of the sport and it’s also thanks to them that today I row.
WR: How did your transition to elite competitive rowing come about?
GV: It was, and still is, a difficult process. As years went by I realised that the elite category is genuinely something different compared to the others; it requires great physical, technical and mental preparation. Competing against the best athletes is not an easy task at all and in order to do so I had to change radically the way I approached this activity. I still have a long way to go to before reaching the best in this field, but I believe I am on the right track.
WR: Where is your training location based?
GV: Even though I am from Naples, nowadays the majority of my training is spent between Sabaudia, where the Fiamme Gialle group I am part of is based and Piediluco, where the Italian national training center is located.
WR: What are the elements that contributed to your boat’s success in 2015?
GV: I think the three months spent working together as a boat ahead of the World Championships was essential. The World Rowing Cup races allowed us to get the right feeling to go and have a great World Rowing Championship as well as build experience and cohesion. I also think that our strength comes from being different but complementary - we are all very different people, united by a single shared goal, each bringing something unique to the boat, which allows us to go a step further than others.
WR: Describe your 2015 World Championship final.
GV: We prepared for this race in great detail - starting with the heat where the goal was to make it into the final as directly as possible, by-passing the repechages. After the win in the heat the tension did start rising, but the moment we put the boat in the water for the final, the tension gave way to determination for all four of us. We just wanted to put it all out there and show exactly how fast we could be.
At the umpire’s 'attention,' I told myself “now it’s my turn, no one can get in the way of our plan.” So at the green light we took off as fast as possible and grabbed control of the race. At 500 metres we were first, with Australia coming back up alongside us until they passed us by the 1000 metre mark. Just past the middle point of the race I heard the Australian strokeman call a push so we responded to it, not letting them get away. We have raced them a lot so we are familiar with their strategy and decided to try a different tactic ourselves. With 700m to go we called our own push and surged back up towards the front of the field. Seeing how much distance we made up on the push showed us we could keep going and take the lead back. I decided to wait for the last 500 metres, where I yelled to my crewmates “we can do this, let’s go!” From then on I just kept on pushing the rate up and my crewmates followed me, until we hit the last 250m and started sprinting to the line at 45/46 strokes per minute, raising it until we crossed the finish line. At the moment all I could think was - “we did it, we are world champions.”
WR: How would you describe your teammates in the men’s four?
GV: Matteo Lodo - He is like a brother to me. We’ve been through many battles as we have been racing since we were juniors and achieved great results together. He is fun, nice and polite and his great talent is essential to our boat. Even though he is young, he stands out by adapting to any role you need, always contributing with his physical strength, long levers and amazing technique, which allows others to focus on giving it their all.
Matteo Castaldo - He is an incredible worker that never gets tired of going hard. He brings passion to the table and tries his hardest in everything he does, even though he is always ready to laugh with you. He is very meticulous and precise and doesn’t let anything escape his control. His main contribution is bringing us all back to order when we start playing around too much, focusing us on the task at hand.
Marco Di Costanzo: We had our first experiences on the national team together as juniors, as well as at the under-23 level again later. Like Matteo Castaldo, he too is a great worker and puts a lot of dedication in what he does, never giving up. With this passion and mind-set, he is able to compete with anyone, even those that have a physiological advantage. He too is an essential piece to the puzzle that is our boat, being a fun and outgoing guy, but at the same time determined and able to transmit his passion to all of us.
WR: What are your memories of your first world championships, when you won bronze in the junior men’s eight in 2009?
GV: I remember I was very tense because I was the strokeman of the top priority boat on the national team that year and the expectations for me were high. We were aiming to improve on the fourth-place they achieved the year before that and were finally able to do that after a bowball to bowball battle with the United States that we won by two tenths of a second. It was an incredible and emotional experience for such an unexpected, yet very desired, medal. It was also a great way to start my career with the national team, making me hungry to achieve more.
WR: You went on to win junior bronze and then gold at the 2010 and 2011 World Rowing Junior Championships, also in the eight. As a junior athlete, what did you most enjoy about the eight?
GV: I think the most enjoyable aspect of those boats was realising that I was part of an amazing group. In those summers spent together at training camps I made many great friendships that last to this day.
WR: Year 2011 was an eventful year for you, when you won silver in the under-23 men’s four and then world gold in the junior men’s eight. You trained with different teammates for each championship. How did the preparation take place?
GV: In 2011, as a junior, my goal was to make it on to the under-23 team. It was a partly complicated path but I had the backing and support of my club coach Antonio Colamonici the whole way. I started the summer at the under-23 camp for the four and had the chance to learn a lot from my older teammates, which definitely also helped me at the World Rowing Junior Championships later that summer. After winning silver with the under-23 men’s four I joined the junior camp. I found an eight that had already been working together for a while and was posting solid times. It wasn’t hard for me to get integrated and start contributing to the boat, getting better every day until we won the gold medal at junior worlds.
WR: In 2013 you won your first medal at senior level – bronze at the World Rowing Cup in Lucerne, crossing the line nearly level with Australia. What are your memories of that race? How did this first senior medal inspire you for your future rowing career?
GV: This was the first chance we had to try out a new formation after the poor performance at the European Rowing Championships. I remember that after the success in the heat we were a little tense, but the race went well even though we would have liked to beat Australia. That experience definitely helped me understand that I could compete with the top rowing nations and be a part of elite rowing.
WR: Do you study/work outside of rowing?
GV: At the moment I do not, but I would like to start studying again soon, as I would like to feed both the body and the mind.
WR: Do you have any hobbies?
GV: I love my family and think the best way to spend my free time is by being with them.
WR: What is a typical training day like?
GV: A typical day for me starts at 7am when the alarm goes off. I have an hour to get ready for practice. After 30min of warm-up on land, we launch in the boat and start our work. We then eat and rest a little before the second practice of the day which is usually in the gym. Around 4pm, depending on the day, we do part cardio work and part weight-lifting.
WR: How do you cross-train?
GV: During the winter periods, in the afternoons, my training varies between running and cycling. I have to say that these activities allow me to change things up a bit, while still helping me train well for the boat so I can be in great shape when I am on the water.
WR: What is something that can always be found in your fridge?
GV: I love Neapolitan food, especially when my Grandmother cooks it. It normally doesn’t make it to the fridge, but to make me happy all I need is an eggplant parmigiana at the table.
WR: How do you see yourself in ten years’ time?
GV: I would like to have started a family and have some kids, even though in the meantime I would like to be working toward the 2028 Olympics.