SHE'S a superstar of Irish sport, and rower Sanita Puspure is being honoured as The Echo Women in Sport Awards Sportswoman of the Year once more.
The Ballincollig-based rower has given much of her life to her sport, and tasted success all along the way.
Rich in talent, Sanita has made sacrifices all along the journey and speaking to The Echo from a training camp in Italy, it’s something that is not lost on us.
Away from family and putting in the gruelling daily effort, there was time in the late evening to catch a bit of free time and catch up with family and news from home.
“It’s so nice to be nominated and it’s just so special to win this Echo Women In Sport award,” said Sanita, who was honoured to be chosen.
The double World and European champion has previously won this award and said it would have been lovely to celebrate it at the usual lunch awards ceremony in Cork.
But in different times now we are living with Covid-19 and the restrictions it has put on so many lives.
It’s something that is not lost on the Rowing Ireland crew, who were at the training camp in Italy in preparation for upcoming regattas but ultimately the Olympic Games, held over from last year and set for summer. The Irish heavyweight rowing team has been in Italy for a high-performance training camp in Varese, before returning to Ireland last week and then self-isolating in line with government guidelines.
Italy was a good training camp for the Irish squad. It wasn’t warm, it was cold, below zero at times. But the Irish team were not there for the weather, they were there for the water, up against cross-winds and choppy conditions in preparation for Tokyo 2021, and honing skills in those conditions.
And the years of practice out at Farran at the National Rowing Centre will also have prepared Sanita what the Olympic journey that lies ahead. Those who have rowed at Farran know of choppy waters and tricky winds... perfect preparations for the Olympic rowing competition in Tokyo bay.
But the life of an athlete can be hard. For Sanita missing family is tough, While she was in Italy, husband Kaspar and their children Daniella and Patrick are back in Ballincollig, where Kaspar has been busy doing the home-schooling.
“Yes, he’s getting a well earned short break from the home-schooling this week because it’s mid-term break,” said Sanita from her base in Italy during school mid-term in Ireland.
With only one show in town, it’s not long before conversation moves to the Olympics, and preparations for the summer games.
“Preparations are going well,” says Sanita. “We have a few months to go, the end is in sight now.”
The typical day? “It’s a work in progress as usual in preparation.
Up early on the water for two to three hours, little nap, little snack and back out on the water again.”
It’s got to be tough on an athlete who’s on top of her game and was in the form of her life last year when the Olympics Games were due to take place. There’s no reason to doubt that had they gone ahead last year Sanita would have been an Olympic gold medalist, barring mishap, such was her form.
And it would have been so well deserved for the Latvian-born Irish rower, whose wish from years back was to hear the Irish national anthem play out as she stood on the podium representing us. But what has the one-year delay in the hosting of the Olympic games meant to Sanita’s physical and mental strength.
“It’s just one year later, I’m one year older, and I’m one year wiser!” says Sanita.
She describes herself as: A mother, a wife, a rower, 2x Olympian, 2x World and European Champion... Proud to be wearing green vest.
And the honours just keep rolling in for the Irish rower.
It was hard keeping motivated and in shape throughout 2020, when initially the whole country was in lockdown, but once elite stars were able to train Sanita was out at the National Rowing Centre in Farran, often three-times daily.
Through the latter half of 2020 she dominated the single sculls, and her preparations have gotten her ready for Tokyo 2021, both physically and mentally. But it’s going to be tough not having the family along on this Olympic journey, an event that is going to be so much different.
“Yes, the Olympics will be different this year for sure,” says Sanita.
I was hoping to be able to go to the closing ceremony this time, but that won’t be possible now because athletes have to leave the Olympic village 48 hours after their event ends.”
This is a disappointment for Sanita, who didn’t go to the closing ceremony in Rio four year ago, after the disappointment of her not making it to the final. “No, I didn’t go to the closing ceremony in Rio, and now I can’t go to the closing ceremony in Tokyo, which is disappointing.”
But the biggest blow for Sanita is not having Kaspar, Daniella and Patrick there with her in Tokyo.
“We were so looking forward to going to Japan together,” said Sanita. “That is the saddest thing for me, as they have been to the previous two Olympics with me.”
But the Irish rowers have a strong bond and will support one another throughout this journey.
When it comes to the Olympics Sanita has always had her eye on the prize. She will adapt to the situation, and get it done!