Pan American Games vital for Latin American countries
Rowing at the Pan American Games starts on 15 October 2011. Lake Zapotlan, about an hour from host city Guadalajara, Mexico, is the regatta venue and it is currently being upgraded.
The rowing regatta will last five days, until 19 October 2011, and will involve 210 athletes (155 men and 55 women) taking part in 14 events. The United States and Canada are expected to dominate the medals podium with strength from nations outside of North America coming from Cuba, Brazil and Argentina.
These Games, which take place every four years, are the biggest event in Latin American rowing and play an important part in securing government funding for the sport. For the rowers of Latin America good results are vital.
FISA umpire Santiago Fuentes from Mexico talked to four of the athletes competing in the Pan American Games - Maria Laura Abalo (Argentina), Patrick Loliger (Mexico), Camila Vargas (El Salvador) and Rodolfo Collazo (Uruguay) – about their involvement in rowing and the Pan American Games.
Here is a selection of answers from Fuentes’ interviews.
Santiago Fuentes: You are a rowing leader in your country, considering the actual level of rowing at the Pan Am Games, what are your expectations for Guadalajara 2011?
Maria Laura Abalo (competed at the 2009 and 2011 World Rowing Championships): I believe that every athlete that competes wishes to win. I have a lot of faith in the pair which I have come back to row with again Gabriela (Best). I will also race in the quad, which we haven’t rowed much, but I believe that we can put up a good fight to the USA and Canada.
Patrick Loliger (Beijing Olympian in the men’s single): My goals in Guadalajara are to win two medals. I know it’s difficult at this level, but I think that victories begin with a dream and mine is to win two medals.
SF: How do you intend to qualify for London 2012 and how are you planning to prepare?
MLA: In Bled, we realised that with very little rowing in the pair we were very close to the rest (something that didn’t happen when we rowed in the single sculls) so the idea is to qualify next year in Lucerne.
PL: Preparation for London 2012 for me has already started. The Pan American Games regatta is just one more step in my goal which is to make the A or B final. Olympic qualification is in March, in Argentina, so, as soon as the Pan Ams are over, I will take one week vacation and then I will get back into training. I will be doing cycling, swimming and running and at least for a month I will not be rowing.
SF: What has been your greatest obstacle in developing to become a better rower?
PL: I think my biggest obstacle is my mind, sometimes it´s hard to believe that I can really reach a high goal, but I am working on it. In Mexican sports there are lots of problems and there will always be, but I do not want to set this as an excuse because there have been people who have won Olympic medals or been close to it even with all the existing problems.
Camila Vargas (Beijing Olympian in the women’s single): The greatest obstacle has been being away from my family. I used to live in another country when I started in the world of rowing, and in order to be able to train with the rest of the team I had to move to El Salvador. Even though I have almost all of my mother´s family living close to me and they try not to make me feel lonely, my parents and my brothers are a few countries away.
SF: How would you consider the level of rowing in your country and Latin America compared to the rest of the world?
PL: The level of rowing has grown in Mexico. I can’t say that it´s at the best stage in national rowing because we are still far from a strong team like we had at the end of the 1980s and beginning of the 1990s. I think that the level in Latin America has grown. Argentina and Cuba have very strong boats which are already in the top 12 of the world. At a world level we have started to improve and many Europeans acknowledge that. In my case, some finalists have come and congratulated me on my improvements.
CV: The Salvadorian Rowing Federation is relatively young. I think it hasn’t been 20 years since its foundation. Little by little I have reached some goals, but I am still far, and I am sure that the group that follows me will have better results than the ones I have.
Rodolfo Collazo (Athens and Beijing Olympian in the lightweight men’s double sculls): It depends from where you look at it. Taking into account that we (Uruguay) are only three million people, I consider that we have reached important results as well as Brazil, Chile and Argentina. I consider that we work very seriously. I also see that rowing in my country has been developing in a very positive way because in the past two years, there has been an addition of three clubs which years ago were nonexistent.
But I am realistic. The Uruguayan rowing population is no more than 350 in the whole country. Compare that to a close place like Tigre, Argentina, where you find double those numbers in just one community. Also, in Uruguay, there is a great gap between national team members and the ones who participate in the national championships.
The Latin American level, according to me, is still very inferior compared to the rest of the world and it was reflected at the last World Championships in which only two Latin American boats (without considering adaptive rowing) qualified for the next Olympics.
SF: When you are done as an athlete, are you planning to stay linked in some way to rowing?
RC: Yes, of course, I am actually a coach at Club Colonia Rowing, which is a club that participates in the Uruguayan Rowing Championships. That´s how, once I am finished with being an athlete, I plan to stay linked to rowing.