Next Stop Tokyo: Valent Sinković

Tokyo 2020 Athlete Interviews

2 minute read
Words Tom Ransley
Photography Benedict Tufnell
Published 10.07.21

Looking to carve his name into the history books, Valent Sinković aims for gold medal at Tokyo in the men’s pair. Along with his brother, Martin Sinković, Valent is the current Rio 2016 Olympic Champion in the men’s double. It is an audacious and unprecedented feat to move from the double to the pair and deliver consecutive Olympic titles. But the World and European Champion Sinković brothers are certainly favourites going into the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Valent shares his thoughts from his hometown rowing base, Lake Jarun, Zagreb, Croatia.

How’s your season, so far? It is hard to say because we only had one race with a full line-up of opposition. And that was at the European Champions – I would say that was our best race because in World Cup I and World Cup III it was not a complete field.

Sculling in Rio to rowing in Tokyo! What’s that transition been like? Switching from the double to the pair was full of obstacles – it was full of everything! We had both good training and bad training. In previous seasons, it was very stressful at times, and we doubted ourselves. It was very hard for us to switch into the pair but this season we are fully satisfied by how it is going, and it is more stable than before.

Will you go straight to the athlete village? We go to a training camp 200-kilometres out of Tokyo for four or five days just to get use to the climate. Then we will move into the athlete village.

How will you feel when you arrive in Tokyo? We will need a few days to recover from the time difference and the travel, but we expect to feel normal pretty soon after arriving in Tokyo. We have experience racing further afield – for example in South Korea, and in Florida, USA. They were both hot and humid and we didn’t have any bad experiences – so I think everything will be good.

When do you depart Tokyo? Because of the Covid-19 regulations we have to go straight home after the race – we would love to stay longer but we will leave 24-hours after the last race.

Have you spent a lot of time away from home? Considering that we are full-time athletes we are not away from home that much. This season we have had a few training camps outside of our home but mostly we train in Zagreb on Lake Jarun. And when we go to the World Cups it is only five days away from home – so it is not too much.

What sessions are you doing now? Are you on a taper? We are doing shorter, higher intensity sessions – like race pace or faster. Definitely we have started to taper, and we hope everything will be good. When we go to Japan, we will get more rest to be ready for racing.

How do you expect these Games to feel? The Games will definitely be different from the other ones [London 2012, Rio 2016] because of Covid-19. The experience won’t be as good as a normal Games but it is better that, than nothing – we expect to go there, train, race and that’s it.

How big is your team? We have a really small team. It is us and Damir Martin in the single; so, three athletes, two coaches and one physio. It is not a big team, but we get along very well, and it is a good atmosphere. We also have a good relationship with the other [non-rowing] Croatian athletes who will be in the village. It will be fun.

Photo CRO M2-
Credit Benedict Tufnell

Which races are you most looking forward to? There will definitely be some interesting races at Tokyo. The one I am looking forward to the most is the eights race because there are a lot of big-name teams in that event. I’m looking forward to seeing who wins the gold medal.

Which other Olympic sports will you follow? When I am resting in the village, I definitely like to watch other sports. It doesn’t matter which ones I just really like the Olympics: It can be anything.

Packing for an Olympic Games, is it easy or hard? It is the easiest. I know exactly what I need; I bring everything our Olympic Federation gives me plus my rowing kit which I use every day.

Have you done any specific heat-training? We didn’t do anything specific for the conditions because we’ve never had any bad experiences before – we train as normal and then go. I like hot conditions, so it doesn’t matter to me, also we will have 12 days to get used to it once we land in Japan.

The racing schedule will have some early starts; is this good or bad? I don’t like early races – I’m not a morning person. I like to sleep a little bit more, but I’ve got used to it because we always train at seven in the morning. Martin is a morning person, so he likes it. The good thing about a morning race is that you don’t have to think too much about the race during the day – you just wake up, eat, and then race.

What’s your race day breakfast?  Something easy to digest – bread or oatmeal, something like that.

Testing positive for Covid-19 could eliminate you from the Olympics, that must be a significant concern? It is worrying. We are vaccinated but you never know if you are going to be near someone with Covid-19 and we will be tested every day, so it is a little bit stressful. We will be careful not to be in a closed room with anyone.

Photo CRO M2-
Credit Benedict Tufnell
Video CRO M2- Post-Race Interview at 2021 World Rowing Cup III Sabaudia, Italy.