Athlete of the Month – June 2019
Twenty-five-year-old Lithuanian rower Milda Valciukaite first won World Championship gold in 2013 in the women’s double sculls before repeating the feat in 2018. In between she won Olympic bronze and is hungry for more medals to add to her collection. Just don’t ask her about ergs!
World Rowing: Do you remember your first time in a rowing boat?
Milda Valciukaite: How can I forget it? My first experience in the boat was at the age of 13. I was rowing a double with my father – who’s also my coach. While sitting in the stroke seat with my father behind I was trying to beat the flow of my hometown river, Neris. And for sure I failed. It ended well because my father had to row alone so that we could reach the rowing club and I was just sitting and admiring gorgeous views of Vilnius:)
WR: Why do you continue to row?
MV: I have to admit I always ask myself why I do. It is kind of a love-hate relationship. I hate it when it becomes too painful for a long period of training. But at the same time I love it because there is no better feeling than the huge relief and happiness after you finish your race. Sometimes I feel like it starts to become an addiction to adrenaline I have before races. For sure, I wouldn’t continue if I didn’t enjoy rowing itself. Frankly, I don’t like erging, weightlifting and other stuff, but a nice boat gliding always makes me happy.
WR: How does being part of a family of rowers influence your experience of rowing?
MV: Firstly, I wouldn't have started rowing if my parents hadn't been rowers before. Rowing as a sport wasn't popular in the country at all and it didn't look like a proper activity for a teenage girl. However, my father really wanted me to try rowing, at least for the summer. He started coaching me and gave me all the experience he gained when he was a rower. I think, as an athlete, he realised his mistakes or things he lacked and he tried to create the better version of an athlete in me.
WR: What is your greatest rowing memory so far?
MV: I suppose it was 2013 World Rowing Championships in Chungju. I remember myself being very young and careless (it was my first year after juniors). I had no fear, no thoughts about the final result. I didn't care much then because I couldn’t even imagine we could be at the top in the senior World Championships. Even after the final race I didn't think that anything very special had just happened. This memory is very exceptional for me because I haven't felt the same again.
WR: What do you most want to achieve in rowing?
MV: I need an Olympic gold medal to complete my medal collection. But I wouldn't feel unlucky if I never managed to win it. I think I have collected the best package of memories and experience to take away.
WR: What are you looking forward to this season?
MV: I hope to find a good rhythm and boat flow with my crewmate Ieva (Adomaviciute). Everything else will come as a result of that. For sure, we will try to get a ticket to the moon, I mean to Tokyo :)
WR: How do you prepare for a race?
MV: I prepare myself mentally by talking a lot and expressing my emotions loudly but of course I try not to wind my teammates up. My physical preparation before the race is common.
WR: What do you think about ergs?
MV: I would have loved to hear this question a few weeks ago but after we did erg tests two days ago I cannot say a good word. All rowers around the world feel me on this. I have never been fast on ergometer, but I try to keep it entertained during winter season :).
WR: What sportsperson do you most admire and why?
MV: I admire all lightweight rowers for their sacrifice to row and be powered by air at the same time. Also, I am usually delighted by their rowing technique and very dynamic movements in the boat.
WR: What do you do when you are not rowing?
MV: In autumn I attend lectures at university, but to be honest I usually fail in spring. I find it very difficult because we spend too much time training abroad. A few years ago I got very useful advice about time planning. We all know how to work hard and how to prioritise the things we have to do but we rarely plan our free time. Now I realise how important that is - especially when we have just a few free afternoons or that rare day off. I get my happiness hormones by doing something for the first time. It is usually a new meal preparation, some unseen places or a bit of a risky activity for me as an athlete (now I pray that my coach won’t read this :) ).