Rowing: what I have learned, and what I have yet to learn

There are moments in a rower’s life when you have to  stop and weigh up what you’re doing, how you’re doing it and where you’re going. An existential crisis? Not exactly.

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Some situations push you  towards important moments of reflection  – the result of cumulative experience. Someone once said that you learn to really live just when here is no longer any point in living. Life’s often like that. But then it is also true that  sharing your own knowledge is vital, particularly when it is what you have learnt.

What I have learnt, and what I have yet to learn

During my short rowing career I’ve learnt a great deal. Not only how to row, but also about human nature. Firstly, I’ve learnt to  respect  my coach, my fellow rowers and my competitors. It was always valuable, but learning to row at my age means you have to really listen to those who know best. In every conversation or shouted instruction there could be hiding a breakthrough for the future. I have learnt that rowing  is not hard, it is relentless. It’s a solitary sport, but not only for men. Above all don’t embellish the truth.

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I’ve understood that the steel needed is not in your legs, but your mind. And just when you want to give up you have to be really crafty. I’ve discovered that in rowing things never quite add up, and that we will kill ourselves for that centimetre of glory, to have our bowball ahead. That there are good days, but they  are fewer than the bad ones; because in rowing you have to be patient. I’ve realised how  small the world is, but the rowing world is even smaller. That there are rowers, and there are those who paddle. I’ve understood that in rowing we are all equal, but some are more equal than others. That two people are not enough to make a double, and that Mother Nature is a downright unfair. And  there is nothing you can do.

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I’ve realised that in this sport you can be successful, without winning. And that the important thing is not to be tall, but to be at the top. I’ve discovered how you must put yourself through it’, but there is no light at the end of this tunnel, only the face of my coach Gigi Ganino who is shouting: “Peppì, the water is winning”. And I’ve learnt not to end up in the water, even if every time I go out I feel like a pile of snow in a world where everyone has salt in their hands  (cit. Franco Arminio, writer and documentary-maker).

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Despite appearances, I’m convinced that rowing is a sport for idealists. Otherwise I’d never have chosen it. Although I’ve also learnt that to chase your dreams you have to be superhuman, because if rowing was easy, everybody would do it. Or rather, everyone can paddle, but not everyone can be a rower. I do believe though that dreams can be preserved, because you never know when you may need one. And no matter how hard they try, no one can suppress a dreamer. Eventually, though the most important thing I’ve come to understand is that when I’m in a boat I’m happy. And when you’re happy, you don’t need to dream.

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