by Giuseppe Lamanna (translated by Gillian Shaw) source text
Amongst the many problems that can plague the amateur rower, the sculling-related ones are the most tricky: particularly that of finding reliable crew mates. Very often, I am the only one around to row with.
Merits of the 1x
So who better to help me understand than the single sculler in the Italian squad: is solitude in rowing a blessing or a curse? In this sport, the ones who really do battle are those who train alone; those who have chosen to train with only their own demons for company. And only those who train alone, really know what those demons are.
Francesco Cardaioli: “Taking on the single was almost out of necessity rather than choice. I first competed in a single in my second year as a junior, and I have never stopped since. My first experience of international racing in a single was in 2013. At the start of the four year cycle it had to be the boat class to gain experience racing against seniors. Then, little by little, the single became mine. However, I can’t say I am completely happy with it. You know how difficult this boat class is at international level. There’s little in the way of achievement or high-profile results, unless you are one of the world’s top five scullers”.
“It’s not easy for a guy like me, studying medicine and for whom rowing is a simple pleasure, training 265 days a year with the squad, making other sacrifices knowing that 10th in the international rankings is the goal (when 9th would be great). Often, I wonder if I’m doing the right thing. Luckily, when I get a good international ranking, like I did at the last D’Aloja Memorial regatta, I think that I am gaining experience after all. I train in the most ‘unforgiving’ boat class of all and I’m improving my mental approach and my preparation in the run up to races”.
“The best thing about the single is that it is just you and the boat. That’s it. There’s nothing else: the same in training, as in racing. There’s no one else in the boat who’s in better or worse shape, or who has more or fewer faults. If you win, you win. If you lose, you lose. That is the most appealing aspect of this boat class; and the thing that, despite all else, makes you love it. Even if you can never be in the top six in the world, you can always try to improve and beat just one more competitor. And if you do, then the credit is yours, and yours alone”.
“Even the solitude becomes a plus. To start with it seems annoying: going to race alone, no one to exchange a word with in training. Now though, I am like an old spinster with my own habits, my own routines. I’m almost irritated when I have to fit in with someone else’s. You learn that the only person you can trust is yourself. The only one with no secrets and you know them through and through. So, when I’m training with the squad three weeks out of four, sharing breakfasts, lunches, dinners, bedrooms, toilets, showers, journeys, meetings and training sessions, being alone for three hours a day is pure pleasure”.
I thank him and ask him if he has chosen his medical specialism yet. He replies Cardiology. I should have guessed. After all, the single sculler is the most romantic image of our sport. Francesco Cardaioli is an athlete with the sensitivity and strength of character who would only choose to take care of the thing that rowing has taught him to understand better than everyone else. The heart.