Rising Star – April 2017
Twenty-one year old Serbian Martin Mackovic is not only a 2016 Under-23 World Champion in the men’s pair, but then he swapped to the men’s coxed pair and went on to win bronze at the World Rowing Championships. When he’s not rowing for his country, he’s rowing and studying for the University of California, Berkley, in the United States – a move he says is one of the best things he’s done.
I have been rowing for approximately 12 years… When I was younger my older brother and I did a bunch of sports together. One day he asked me if I wanted to try rowing and I agreed. There was something special about rowing that kept us coming back for more.
My favourite part of rowing is racing... I love being out on the water and working hard but nothing beats race day. It takes preparation to be good on race day. Rowing has taught me a lot of important values like discipline and commitment that have helped me not only on the water but also in the classroom. On top of helping to build my character, rowing has given me the opportunity to meet some incredible people and get to some amazing places.
One of the biggest challenges has been… that the club I started rowing for was a small club, so making the first steps towards the international level was definitely the hardest part.
Things have changed since my first junior world championships…in Plovdiv in 2012. The medal podium seemed really far away. I always felt motivated to work hard and improve. However, my technical skills and power was lacking. Throughout the years I have been able to work on them and gradually get faster. I know there is still a lot of work to be done, but I am excited and motivated to make the next steps.
My best 2km erg score is… 5:55.4.
My biggest achievement in rowing is… my 2016 racing season, which was my most successful year so far. It started off with a win in the IRAs (Intercollegiate Rowing Association National Championship) in the USA with the University of California, Berkeley, Varsity Eight. Winning the national championships in the USA was something I really wanted to do. Before coming to the USA, I did not realise the level of the college rowing circuit or how important it would become to me. After placing second in my freshman year, I was hungry to come back and win. After the IRAs, I returned to Serbia and got back together with my pair partner Viktor Pivac. We had done well the previous two years and winning the Under-23 World Championships together really completed the season for me. These two results are closest to my heart.
My goals for this season are… similar to last year. I want to win the IRAs and then defend my under-23 gold in the pair. This is all part of my long term goal of winning an Olympic medal.
Off the water, my next big goal is… to graduate from the University of California, Berkeley. Before I came to Cal I always enjoyed school, but studying here has really sucked me into my academics. By continuing to work hard in the classroom I am trying to set myself up to go to grad school.
Rowing the coxed pair was… quite an experience. Originally Viktor and I did not plan on rowing the coxed pair. After the under-23 Worlds we decided to go for it, and I am happy that we came away with a bronze medal. The main difference between the boats is that the coxed pair is significantly heavier through the water.
Coming to study at the University of California, Berkeley… is one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. I knew a few Serbians who went to row for Cal and they all spoke highly of their experiences. At first while I was being recruited I was unsure if I wanted to leave home and go across the world to study. After talking to the coaches and my family, I decided to go for it. Looking back, I am very thankful that I did. Coming to study at Cal has been a life changing experience. Cal is a very special school as there are not many places in the world where you can get coached by an eight time Olympian (Mike Teti) in the morning and then be taught by some of the best professors in the world.
There are a lot of differences in rowing and training between the United States and Serbia In the US, Cal has a large team and the training is focused around eights racing. It is a merit based program which means your performance determines what boat you end up in. I have seen guys from the bottom boats work hard and rise to the top. What this means is that it is super competitive for a seat in the Varsity eight. Every day guys on the team push each other as we all fight for a seat in the top boat. Because while we train at Cal we are also studying, practices tend to be shorter and more intense. This allows us to get to class and take care of academics. On the other hand, in Serbia, it is more about developing a certain boat. We do not row the eight as much in Serbia but more small boats. There is less intensity and more volume. Both systems have helped develop me into the rower that I am today.
I balance study and training with… the help of a system developed by Coach Teti that works perfectly for the college athlete. It involves a morning workout and then a second practice a few times a week. This schedule gives me a few days a week that I can load up with academics. Cal also offers lots of academic support like tutors which are helpful. I will not lie - it is hard work, and time management is the key to success. However, it is a lot of fun and school provides a nice break to the grind of training.
In my free time… I like to read, watch movies, walk around the nature and hang out with my friends.