Athlete of the Month - May 2011
For over a decade there has hardly been a final in the lightweight men’s double sculls that Elia Luini has not been in. The courageous Italian is World Rowing’s Athlete of the Month for May and he openly shares with us the highs and lows of his rowing career so far, as well as his thoughts on what makes a good double and all about his current doubles partner, Lorenzo Bertini.
World Rowing: What are you looking forward to this month?
Elia Luini: I look forward to training in a satisfactory way so as to achieve a positive result in Munich. This is the first step of my journey to the World Rowing Championships and, ultimately, London!
WR: Where are you at present?
EL: I’m currently in Gavirate (close to Varese) but I am going back to Piediluco (Terni) in a few days to continue my preparation for the World Rowing Cup in Munich.
WR: Describe your typical day.
EL: When I’m at home, I usually wake up at 8am and have breakfast. I generally leave my house around 9.30am to reach the Varese Rowing Club. There I train alone on the lake and I am a guest, as my own club is the Aniene Rowing Club, in Rome. I’m generally done with my training by 12.30pm, when I usually have lunch with my parents. I get some rest in the early afternoon and relax before my second daily training session begins. For the second session I can choose between running, biking, going to the gym or rowing once more. After this I usually go home and have dinner. In the evening I normally watch TV or meet up with friends. Apart from rare occasions, I go to bed around 11pm or midnight.
WR: When not rowing what can you be found doing?
EL: Since I get to spend very little time at home, when I am not rowing I usually take care of those tasks I never have enough time to take care of. Let’s say it’s mostly housekeeping tasks!
WR: Give us a bit of a background on how you first got into rowing.
EL: My first meeting with the rowing world dates back to when I was 12. I had practised a lot of different kinds of sport (judo, basketball and swimming) as my parents, who had also practised much sport, believed that it was necessary for a kid to take on some sport. Their aim was not to make a champion out of me, but they felt that sport is essential for a kid and helps you grow up. However, the problem was always the same: all these sport activities were designed for kids, which means that we were supposed to meet 2 to 3 times a week only and we had no meeting at all during summertime when school was closed for holidays. Because of this lack of continuity I used to switch to a new sport any time September came to try something new.
I was lucky when it came to rowing because not only did I like rowing very much, but also I could keep on rowing for the whole summertime. The courses did not stop at the end of school time: instead our training sessions were doubled during the holidays! That’s one of the reasons why I stuck to rowing once I had started. Moreover, I always had some challenging goals to achieve which was something that made it more and more exciting!
WR: Are you a full-time rower?
EL: Yes, I’m a full time athlete. At this level, athletes luckily manage to practise full time as they are supported either by the army branches or by private sport clubs. I do not belong to the army and I’m part the Aniene Rowing Club as previously mentioned. The club, based in Rome, has many members who love rowing and do a lot to support and make the most of the sport activities and the athletes.
WR: You just competed in the Memorial D’Aloja. Is the double with Lorenzo Bertini a sign of your season to come?
EL: I would say so: Lorenzo and I were already together on the national races which were held two weeks before the Memorial. We were both happy with the results achieved on these two occasions and agreed that they were a good start for us and also a very positive way to get closer to what is waiting for us in Munich.
WR: Do you train regularly with Lorenzo or do you train in other boats?
EL: When I’m at home or in Rome at my club I generally train in the single. I have the chance of training with Lorenzo when we are both training during the Italian federation meetings, which are held in Piediluco.
WR: Your career in the double has seen you row with a number of partners, what do you think makes a good double partnership?
EL: According to my personal experience I feel that a mutual understanding as well as some humility are both essential in the creation of a remarkable double. It takes two to form a good double; it takes two to win and to lose too! There’s no leader when it comes to the double, it’s always 50-50. In truth, I feel there’s always one stronger athlete in the double; it’s impossible to have two identical athletes. However, this should not lead to jealousies and conflicts inside the double team, the outcome of such a thing would be the non-achievement of our own goals. I’m lucky enough to have an extremely positive relationship with Lorenzo and not only when it comes to training. This really creates a value that will last over time and bring good results.
WR: What has been your favourite rowing experience so far?
EL: My favourite and most satisfying experience so far is the silver medal I won at the Sydney 2000 Olympics. That episode marked the beginning of a great four-year period together with (Leonardo) Pettinari. It was truly the most amazing time! Apart from the results we achieved together, we also became very good friends, which made it easier for both of us to put up with all the sacrifices and the training sessions. However, a huge disappointment marked the end of such a period: the Olympic Games (Athens) were awful and our friendship was over too.
WR: Do you have a mentor?
EL: I do not have any particular mentor. I admire any athlete able to achieve great results no matter what their sport is. I think there are so many athletes to look up to in history!
WR: When you were young what did you think you would be when you grew up?
EL: I had no idea that I would have managed to take part in the Olympic Games or that I would have won important medals.
World Rowing: Where are you now?
Elia Luini: I am currently in Piediluco, training at the National Centre and getting ready for the event in Munich, Germany (Samsung World Rowing Cup).
WR: What are your plans for Munich?
EL: I am taking part in the competition together with Lorenzo Bertini - the same boat as last year. This will be our first international test (this season). My goal is to achieve a good performance while checking the state of my athletic preparation and to see where we stand with respect to our competitors.
WR: Where can you be found an hour before a big race?
EL: I will generally be in some corner alone to find the right state of mind for the race and stretch out a little bit.
WR: What do you like to do the night before a big race?
EL: Nothing in particular. I usually eat what I can (since I have to keep my weight under control being a lightweight rower) and I try to relax without thinking too much about the race.
WR: Have you ever rowed the perfect race? If so when and how did it feel?
EL: Well, perfection doesn’t exist! Still, I have had more than one remarkable race, in those cases you feel indestructible as if nothing could ever stop you!
WR: What is your key training session or sessions to prepare you for a 2000m race?
EL: I feel everything is important to build a 2000m race. First of all, you have to build a strong base during the wintertime, trying to create a powerful stroke and maintaining it during that period when we train as if we were racing all of the time. I personally think the best training session is the race itself as a preparation to future competitions!
WR: What is the toughest session that you do?
EL: It really depends on how tired I feel. Even the lightest and most banal training session feels like the toughest thing to do if I am tired.
WR: Do you have a favourite saying?
EL: Yes; “Nobody ever died of rowing”. This is a thing I say to myself when I am really worn out, when I get to a critical point during a training session or a competition. It is like saying “don’t give up, hold on, nothing bad is going to happen! Nobody is going to die!”
WR: What piece of technology do you like to take with you when you travel?
EL: My MacBook. I can safely say it contains all of my life!
WR: Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
EL: Maybe working as a trainer or an event manager in the sports field in my region. The only sure thing is that sport will always be a part of my life.