Simplicity is key to Sinkovic success
The Sinkovic name has become synonymous with success in the world of rowing. Their career took them from a World Champion and Olympic silver-medal men’s quadruple sculls, to a World and Olympic Champion men’s double sculls, to a World (and potentially Olympic) Champion men’s pair. They are Martin and Valent Sinkovic of Croatia.
After winning the European and World Championships in 2019, Martin and Valent were named World Rowing Men’s Crew of the Year and World Rowing wanted to find out more about them.
In the second week of January, 2020, the brothers could be found in different parts of Croatia; Valent on a cross-country skiing trip with his rowing club and Martin back home in Zagreb, hammering out workouts on the ergometer.
“He likes to do the erg more,” Valent says laughing. “I like skiing more. It’s beautiful here with great weather.”
The pair have their training schedule down to a precision science. In the third week of January Valent returns to their club in Zagreb where the two brothers continue their indoor season. A few weeks later, it is time for a training camp on the ‘warmer’ river water near Split, Croatia. Then it’s back home for the final preparation before the international season begins.
The light-hearted and joking brothers try not to take things too seriously. When asked if they had any specific plans for the all-important Olympic year, Valent chuckles and says, “Just train normal, train like every other year and give our best at the races. It sounds simple. But it is like that, simple.”
Simplicity has brought them quite a bit of success, including being named World Rowing Crew of the Year for the second time.
“It’s the greatest award any rower can get,” says Martin. “It’s a huge deal for us, especially winning for the second time in a second discipline.”
“It’s really a great achievement,” Valent adds. “There are so many good crews and good people.”
But does the Award put an extra target on their backs? Well, it does not add pressure, according to the brothers.
“We are used to the pressure,” Martin says. “I hope by now we can deal with it normally. Over the last five or six years, we were pretty much always the front runners. We are used to that feeling. It is better when you win almost every race, it becomes easier to come first after that.”
And for Valent, the pressure is not externally driven. “Since we came to the top in 2010, we’ve always had pressure to be number one. But it’s not the awards that add pressure, it’s our own expectations of ourselves.”
So after all of these years, what is the key to the Sinkovic success? It depends who you ask.
According to Martin, “We have the best coach in the world. We try to give 100 per cent at every training session and every race. We have good bodies and our coach is a really smart guy and he knows how to handle the rowing. It’s his knowledge and us giving 100 per cent at every training session.”
But for Valent, it has more to do with technique. “I think it’s not just one thing, it’s a lot of things that need to be good. But I think maybe for us it’s our technique. We are physically really good, among the best,” he says laughing. “We are fast enough to be good, but we always work on technique.”
In the switch to the men’s pair, after Rio Olympic gold in the double, their consistent effort to improve technique has paid off. They have now spent three seasons in the boat and it is finally feeling like home.
“The most difficult thing in the pair is balance. For the first two years especially, we struggled with balance. We couldn’t always reach at the front (of the stroke) and before a race we were never sure if it would be good or not. Last year was our best in the pair. We were finally able to focus on the smaller things.”
After three years, two World and two European titles, the brothers finally feel like their pair rowing is up to standard. So, was it the right decision to make the switch? “For now, yeah it’s a good decision,” says Martin. “It was fun to try something new.”
The Sinkovics plan to race the first two World Rowing Cups in 2020 as well as the European Rowing Championships before their final preparations for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.