DSC_3968 - Kopie
Marco Di Costanzo (b), Giovanni Abagnale, Bruno Rosetti, Matteo Castaldo (s), Men's Four, Italy, 2021 European Rowing Championships, Varese, Italy / Detlev Seyb/MyRowingPhoto.com

Rower of the Month – July 2021

Thirty-five-year-old Italian rower Matteo Castaldo is appreciating rowing, the Olympics and life more than ever after the past year. The former World and European Champion and member of the men’s four tells us where his love for the sport comes from and why he’s the boss in the boat.

World Rowing: How do you feel now that the Tokyo Olympics are going ahead after the disappointment of last year?
Matteo Castaldo: I am very happy and excited to race! The Olympics are the most long-awaited event for every athlete – the one for which you train your whole life. Not holding them would’ve meant throwing away five long years of preparation and hard work. It would have been awful!

WR: How has your preparation or lead-up to Tokyo been compared with other Olympics or World Championships?
MC: The preparation has been completely different from all the others. The Covid protocols have upset our programmes, we had to change the way we train and drastically reduce racing to avoid infection as much as possible. We trained in small groups and the hardest thing was not knowing whether the Olympic Games would be able to be held under normal circumstances. It was a very difficult preparation, both mentally and physically.

WR: Has the pandemic changed you?
The pandemic taught me not to take anything for granted. In everyday life and in rowing. I’ve lived this year with the terror of being infected and consequently having to say goodbye to the Olympics. Getting Covid in the final months before the games would have been the end!

WR: Why did you choose rowing as a sport and what keeps you going?
I started rowing when I was a kid thanks to my father. I immediately liked the feeling of lightness that a rowing boat gives you when you let it run underneath you. From there, I fell in love with the sport. Despite being a tough sport, I think that the life of a rower is beautiful. What drives me to keep going after so many years is the continuous search for my limit in order to be faster and always more competitive!

WR: What is your favourite place to row?
My favourite place to row is Lucerne, Switzerland. The Rotsee is such a magical place – there is a unique atmosphere during the races, something you can’t find anywhere else. Not for nothing, they call it the lake of the gods!

WR: What is your role in your crew?
I am the oldest in my crew. Therefore, I have the task of bossing everyone around and keeping an eye on the wild boys, both on land and on the water. I am very demanding and whoever is on the boat with me knows it very well!

WR: What is the best advice you’ve ever had?
The best advice I have had over the years is to take risks in all circumstances, even when the opponents were much stronger than me. This has helped me a lot to achieve my goals.

WR: What do you do when you are not rowing?
Most of the time I am away at camp with the team, so I try to get as much time as I possibly can with my wife and children.

WR: How do you relax?
The little free time I have I like to spend it going around on my motorbike or working in the garden. And when the time comes, in October, I enjoy picking olives from the trees in my backyard to make olive oil.

WR: Which sportsperson do you most admire?
Right now, the person I admire the most is Olaf Tufte. He has an incredible career behind him, he has won everything and even now, at 45 years old, he is still hungry! I truly believe that there is no better example to follow.