Wednesday 7 December 2016

Puspure rides storm of online abuse to fly the green flag once again

Rowing

Barry Lennon

Published 06/08/2016 | 02:30

Sanita Puspure: ‘I want to do my coach justice, my family and myself’. Photo: Sportsfile
Sanita Puspure: ‘I want to do my coach justice, my family and myself’. Photo: Sportsfile

Sanita Puspure didn't "think twice" about representing Ireland for another Olympics over her native Latvia despite enduring a wave of online abuse over her decision.

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The Ballincollig single sculls rower revealed that online trolls labelled her "traitor" for swapping countries during her first Olympics in London.

"They are a different sort of people. While some will congratulate, others will call me names and all that kind of stuff," she says.

"I don't need all this negative energy before I go into an Olympics. I know it's all just talk and it shouldn't really matter but it doesn't make you feel good about yourself."

Puspure ruled out interviews with any more Latvian journalists whose reports attracted public criticism in the country of her birth before Rio.

"There was way more coverage before the London Games. When I got back home I decided I was not going to do that (interviews)anymore. That's it," she adds.

However, there was no question over representing Ireland this time as there was when she dreamed of making her first Olympics in London.

Puspure has built a life for herself in Co Cork since she and her husband first came to Ireland in 2004 to search for work and to learn English.

She believes she wouldn't have the same "support" in Latvia with her club Old Collegians Boat Club organising fundraisers for her Olympic dream. The 34-year-old gained citizenship in order to compete but admits that she is still learning about the country 12 years later.

"My first impression of Irish people was that nobody ever talks seriously, they just seemed to joke all the time," she says.

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"I started working in a shop and I tried to do my job as good and as quick as I could.

"But the customers said, 'Why are you so serious?' I thought, 'Why are you complaining? I'm serving you quickly.'"

The Olympics first became a target after the birth of her second child and there was a strong foundation to build upon.

Puspure started rowing as a child and even attended a secondary school in Latvia which allowed her to train while completing the equivalent of the Leaving Cert.

She then went on to win gold in double sculls at the World Student Games and bronze in a singles U-23 event for Latvia before moving to Ireland.

Competing on the world stage at senior level was a bigger challenge and making an Olympics can be a lonely path in the single sculls, even with family support. You're not dependent on anyone in the boat and it's just you. If it's not going well you don't have to look too far away to find the guilty person.

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Puspure made her way to the quarter-finals at London 2012 but admits this is where she found inexperience in the single sculls caught up with her.

"Getting to London was a huge achievement for me. I had some experience but nothing that big so I was just really happy to make it," she says.

Lessons

She will hope to take the lessons that have been learned in London to the Rio Olympics as she prepares to enter the water in the women's single sculls first round (1.30) today.

"This time I want to do my coach justice, my family and myself as well actually. If not learn from it," she says.

"I'm still getting quite overwhelmed at times but now I'm going to race the same girls I race all the time. It's just the name of the competition. You have to forget everything.

"Hopefully, I'll keep my head a little bit cooler and hopefully no unlucky draws."

Irish Independent

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