"I knew I didn’t want to finish my Olympic career on such a low note. I have to make it right."

Newstalk.com speaks to Irish Olympic rower Sanita Puspure about righting wrongs from Rio

BY Cian Roche 15:00 Saturday 20 May 2017, 15:00 20 May 2017

Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie

The Olympic Games should be the peak of most athletes' careers.

Depending on your sport, the global show piece is where you want to perform. A gold medal is the holy grail. After another disappointment on the world stage in Rio, however, rower Sanita Puspure didn't feel this way.

"The first thing I said today was that I was never going to the Olympic Games again," she told reporters after missing out on a semi-final place in the Women's Single Sculls.

"It's been two huge disappointments for me."

The Games in Brazil appeared to be the then-34-year-old's last crack at making an Olympic final and challenging for a medal.

"The aftermath [of the Olympics] was quite challenging," she tells Newstalk.com. "I was upset over the way things turned out for me. I thought I was in great shape and I think I deserved a better placing than I got.

"But you fail when you don’t deliver what you have to deliver. You’re out. I don’t think I could have done much more. Maybe I missed out on a few things at the Olympics, but that’s life."

The two-time European medallist took some time to reflect on her performance and, despite her strong words, admits she was ready to get back onto the water as quick as she could.

"After a few weeks I was eager to get back into training to make it all right.

"That’s quite a pattern in athletes, you want to go back as quick as you can to fix it all. That might have been a mistake because I found it quite hard over the winter. I didn't think I had enough of a break after the Olympics."

Sanita Puspure is consoled by physiotherapist Sarah Jane McDonnell after finishing fourth in the quarter-final of the Women's Single Sculls in Rio. Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie

Making amends

And so the long journey back from disappointment began. Her training, often difficult over the winter, was key to keeping her in the right mindset for her return.

"Two weeks after we came back from the Olympics, I knew I didn’t want to finish my Olympic career on such a low note. I have to make it right.

"During the winter training was going well and my physiology looked liked it was in the best shape ever - which was surprising because I thought I wasn’t as motivated as the years before.

"Maybe I need to be a little bit more relaxed and enjoy training a little bit more. Not to take it as a huge mission, but enjoy it every day."

The targets she has set are the landmarks to another long journey back to the top table of international rowing.

"The big goal is going to Tokyo. At the same time, it’s hard to see myself in four year’s time. I’m aiming for 2020, but try to roll it back and break it up into smaller boxes. I’m focusing on one season at a time and I’ll see how it goes.

"I’m even breaking it down to one regatta at a time, I wouldn’t even look at a full year. That’s how we survived the winter. There’s not many people around in training, so you put a target on the next trial. That’s the next one to focus on.

"You do it for every trial or race coming up. That’s what keeps you going."

The season-opening World Rowing Regatta in Belgrade was the first stop on the road to the Far East.

A fifth-place finish in the A final of the Women's Single Sculls wasn't exactly the perfect way to begin her preparation for the season ahead, but the result highlights areas Puspure needs to improve on.

"It was decent enough for a season-opening regatta. It can be a bit nerve-wracking if you don’t know where you stand. There’s new competitors coming in and I had quite a tough field.

"There’s nowhere to hide in that situation. It was good that I could see after every race that I was getting a little bit faster and maybe I need a little bit more work in that first 1,000m."

Puspure says her short-lived disappointment from Rio won't deter her from competing in another Olympic Games. Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie

She travels now to Italy for a training camp in the Mediterranean heat and targets small improvements in her form to yield wins over the summer.

"The podium finishes are on my mind during training. I was disappointed with my finish the last weekend [in Belgrade], it didn’t work out quite my way.

"But you take those results with a pinch of salt. By changing one or two things, you can knock off quite a few seconds in a race. Hopefully I can do that and claw my way onto a podium this year."

European Championships are fast approaching and with her preparation having started just two weeks before the start of the event, adjustments will need to be seamless.

Her approach to training may have changed, but her hunger to compete has not been diminished. And although Land of the Rising Sun remains on the horizon, Sanita Puspure has her eyes firmly fixed on what's in front of her.

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