Ireland’s world champion sculler Sanita Puspure demonstrated the age-old funding quandry faced by elite Irish athletes at the announcement of Kinetica’s major new sponsorship of Rowing Ireland yesterday.
The deal will provide Ireland’s top rowers with the company’s sports nutrition products as well as naming rights to the National Rowing Centre in Inniscara and sponsoring the national rowing championships.
Kinetica have also signed up Puspure as a brand ambassador and, asked about how becoming world champion has changed her life, she said: “There’s definitely more (commercial) opportunities now, which is great.
“But, at the same time, I look back at when I was fourth in the world and I was the exact same athlete but no one wanted to support me.That’s kind of sad because you really need that support before you become world champion,” she stressed.
Puspure is keeping her competition schedule to an absolute minimum again this year, in the hope of replicating her phenomenally dominant form in 2018 and also clinching early Olympic qualification. Her first major race will be the upcoming European Championships in Lucerne at the end of the month (May 31-June 2).
Her main focus is the World Championships in Linz (Austria) in late August, particularly because the top nine in her single sculls event will clinch automatic Olympic qualification for Tokyo 2020. Other than that she will only compete in one other ‘major’ this season, the last of the World Cups in Rotterdam on July 12-14.
She admitted that maintaining the fine balance between training and competing, which she got so right in 2018, is one of the biggest challenges in her physically demanding sport.
“Last year I just raced three times also and that worked out well. It meant we had blocks of four to five weeks training inbetween each competition and, every time we went to race, we went faster so we edged gradually up to that peak performance.
Puspure noticeably skipped the much later European Championships last season to save herself for Worlds, a strategy which worked brilliantly when she romped home to gold in Poland, beating the field by over five seconds.
Those were Ireland’s most successful ever World Rowing Championships as the O’Donovan brothers also won gold in the lightweight double and Ireland’s lightweight men’s quad and women’s pair also reached A finals.
Puspure said one of the best things about her success is the motivation and the belief it has provided to her Irish teammates.
“The good thing is that everyone can see and say ‘I’m doing pretty much the same programme as her so maybe I can be world champion as well!’,” she said.
“We all train together. I used to be miles ahead of everyone but now everyone is closing up and I’m starting to panic! They push me all the time and they tell me I’m pushing them. It’s like we on the same train now and driving on.”
With five Europeans making last year’s women’s single sculls’ final at the World Championships in Plovdiv, her event at the upcoming European Championships is expected to be just as competitive.
They should include Swiss silver medallist Jeannine Gmelin whom she obliterated by over five seconds and Austria’s bronze medallist Magdalena Lobnig and the Czech sculler who won gold in the London Olympics is also back competing now after having a baby.