Two-time Olympian. Two-time World Champion. Two-time European Champion. Sanita Pušpure is somewhat acclimatised to the pressure, expectation and scrutiny that comes with being being an athlete amid the notoriety of the public eye.
Just four years after picking back up an ore following a hiatus from the sport, Pušpure made it to the London 2012 Olympics which she recalls as “magical.”
Having conquered the C final that year, the status quo for the Latvian-born Cork woman rose from participation to that of expectation and she began training to the point of burn out.
In 2013 she competed in one event only, that being the World Cup, before pulling out and labelling the remainder of the year as a “write off”.
Rallying the following year to make the podium for the first time at the European Championships, prospects again turned to the Rio Olympics in 2016 where things did not go as planned as she missed out on a semi-final place by just 0.65 of a second.
“That was almost a breaking point for me, whether to just leave it at that or not” she says.
“Straight after that race, I thought I’ll never do it again. That I’m done. It was just so heart-breaking. But then few days later, I wasn’t happy with the way it felt and I wanted to have a better feeling about the sport before I left.”
Now 39, the single scull rower reflects on the ordeal through the lens of sports psychology and is thankful for the backing of her loved ones during a difficult time.
“There were points if I didn’t have the right support, I probably would have gone and left the sport. I suppose on your own, you can cope only until you can’t and then when it gets too hard, too heavy you’re unhappy all the time “she says.
“So that was the time to look for help and have somebody to talk to and it was good choice to do that as well.”
Supporting and following Pušpure on her journey are Team Ireland partners Indeed. Alonsige their team, they have put together a #TalentUnleashed series – ‘The Story of Sanita Puspure’. The story highlights the highs and lows of her career and delves into the sacrifices she has made alongside her family.
Having triumphed over the adversity since, securing back-to-back gold medal wins at the European and World Championships, the single sculls champion is among the top contenders at the Tokyo Olympics.
Pušpure has made no secret of her desire to bag gold Olympics. It would represent a cherry on top on what has been a glittering career. With that said, the champion single-sculler isn’t thinking too far ahead with plenty of work still to be done before now and the start of the Games.
Describing her reaction to the extra training time as a result of the postponement to next summer with “mixed feelings”, Pušpure says she is “really looking forward to [it] and whatever the result is going to be, it’s going to be.”
“If it’s the medal great. If it’s gold, amazing. It’s a different story if not then but yeah I don’t know. But, I’m really looking forward to it now as it’s getting closer the excitement is building as well” she says.
The definition of a tenacious athlete sports onlookers throughout Ireland wish you all the best in your endeavour to “put the cherry on top” of an illustrious career this summer in Tokyo Sanita!