Athlete of the Month - August 2016
To celebrate the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, World Rowing features the most medalled rower at the Olympic level - Romania's Elisabeta Lipa. Lipa's last Olympic Games was Athens 2004 which took her to Olympic Games number six and eight Olympic medals won, including five gold.
World Rowing: Of all your many Olympic medals do you have a favourite one?
Elisabeta Lipa: My favourite medal is the one I won at Los Angeles, in 1984. it was the first time I could feel the Olympic gold. I understood that my destiny is to fight for the first place. This first accomplishment motivated me for the next participation in the Olympic Games.
WR: At the age of 20, you raced at your first Olympic Games – Los Angeles 1984 – in the women’s double sculls. You also won your first Olympic gold. What are your memories of your first Olympic medal?
EL: I remember very well the emotions I had. The hard working years helped me to be in good shape. I was very young and the main challenge was to use all of my energy for the best result. To concentrate and to do exactly what I was trained to do.
WR: Four years later, at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, you raced in two boat classes – the women’s quadruple sculls and again the double sculls – and medalled in both. You raced in two boat classes at four successive Olympic Games. How would you describe the challenges of doubling up?
EL: There is a huge effort to compete in the Olympics Games and a bigger one to double this challenge. For me it was a double chance to prove myself that good physical condition and strong motivation can lead to performance. I am glad that I decided to do that. It definitely wasn't easy, but who says that Olympic games are easy?
WR: You raced in the women’s double sculls four times at the Olympic Games, medalling three times in this particular event. What did you like about the double?
EL: I like to row in a team. I am a team woman. In double sculls it is not talking only about being in good shape. It is also about coordination, about friendship, about sharing the same motivation of winning. The common feeling that together you can use your energy to move faster and better. My first Olympic participation brought me the first gold medal, and that was in the double sculls. It brings me strong and good memories.
WR: You became an Olympic Champion in the women’s eight three times. What helped you make the transition from sculling to sweep rowing?
EL: After so many medals won in sculling, I felt the need to switch to sweep rowing. If you are good at sculling, you can easily switch to rowing. It is not that easy to do the change from rowing to sculling. I preferred sweep rowing instead of taking a break. After so many years of sculling, I decided to specialize in rowing.
WR: Of all of the Olympic Games you taken part in, would you like to share some of your favourite memories?
EL: It is not enough to participate at Olympic Games, but to win medals. All of my presences at the Olympics are dear to me, from this point of view. the most beautiful is the first one, because it was the first. There are not so many rowers at 40 years old that are winning the Olympic title. In 2004, at Athens, I had maybe the most difficult race in my career, but the satisfaction was at the same grade. The most beautiful memory was the moment that our eight team threw Ion Tiriac, the president of the Romanian Olympic and Sportive Committee into the water. He didn't know how to swim, so we were the ones to save him from the water.
WR: Who were your main competitors during your Olympic career and what did you admire about them?
EL: There are many rowers that I admire. I had something to learn from every one of them. At the beginning of my career, I used to admire the Germans, for the way that were showing the love for their country, for their dedication. They were fighting until the last moment, even if their competitors were leading three boat-lengths ahead. I promised that if I were to have a child, I would send him to a German school. I kept my promise. Dragos, my son, went to a German school. I admired Canadian rowers Silken Laumann and Marnie McBean. My models in Romania were Valeria Racila and Sanda Toma.
WR: What were some of the main developments you noticed in the sport of rowing throughout your career?
EL: The evolution of technology is amazing. I remember my wooden boat, that I used to start my training and wooden sculls. But, finally, the rower is making the difference. The hard work, the training, the seriousness, the dedication and the inner motivation are the keys for success.
WR: How do you see the sport of rowing in ten years’ time?
EL: Rowing is beautiful and it will keep its beauty. I am what I am because of rowing. I imagine that the competitions will became shorter, more spectacular.
WR: What advice would you give to a first-time Olympian?
EL: Dear novice, if you are at the Olympics, it is worth all the sacrifices you made for that. To be an Olympic Champion is unique. If it is not going to happen at Rio, you have to work harder. If your desire is big enough, your dream is going to be real and you will live it. I know it from my own life.