Rower Sanita Puspure has a target on her back. Heading into 2020, she’s the one to beat as reigning World Champion in the womens’ single sculls event. Sanita is beginning ten months of hard training for the Olympics and she’s determined to take her place on the winner’s podium in Tokyo next summer. This summer, however, she faced a very different challenge: the death, from cancer, of her older sister Inese at the age of 40.
Sanita took time out from formal training to be with her sister in Latvia. Ten days after her funeral, Sanita was immersed in a training camp for the World Championships, preparing to defend the title she secured in Bulgaria just last year. She was devastated with grief and initially struggled with its effect on her performance.
“When you’re in that kind of mental state, it’s really hard to keep pushing physically.”
Sanita successfully defended her world title and says the backing of her coaches and her teammates was crucial at such a difficult time. They supported her decision to spend time with her sister in Latvia as Inese’s illness worsened. Throughout this time she kept up a solo training regime as well as she possibly could. Ultimately, Sanita found the mental strength to balance her grief with the hard, physical graft.
“You have to brush away all the bad thoughts and just focus on the task at hand, and then give yourself time when you can cry later – just do the job first.”
Ryan and Sanita talked about happier times too, including taking her kids to an All-Ireland final in Croke Park for the first time and how getting lost on the way to Dublin Zoo led her to where she is today. You can listen to their conversation in full here.
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