I’ve started doing sports in winter, when I was 13 years old. I came to gym to become stronger and more muscled, because all of my class friends were doing it. I was thinking about kayaks, but there were no coach on that day. So I signed up with the canoeing coach. When spring came, he pushed me to try on canoeing in the water. When I tried it I fell in love with this sport.
Did you have idols in your childhood?
I never had any idol in my life. I was just taking the best features from some people I knew. I always wanted to become the person I want to be and maybe become as an example for someone else.
What kind of sports do you like except canoe sprint?
I’ve tried various sports in my life. I used to play basketball, football and chess. Since I found love for canoeing, it’s been 12 years now and still enjoying it.
Where do you train in winter? What place do you like most of all?
In winter, mostly till Christmas I am training in my country, in the city Trakai. The lake gets frozen mostly a bit later, so the camps in other countries start from January. The last two years I’ve been skiing in Bulgaria, then going to Portugal, Croatia, where the weather conditions are much better for trainings. In May I am going back to Lithuania, then the weather is perfect for trainings again.
My favourite training camp is in Zagreb, where the channel is perfectly done for competitions. Also the living place is more like home, because we live in apartments, not in a hotels. I do strictly follow my sport routine, so the main entertainment in camps is visit to the shopping mall.
How does the ordinary day of your life look like?
The typical day starts with the good, healthy breakfast. Couple hours after I do the first canoeing training in the water. After that I have lunch, rest and a short nap by midday. Then usually it's time for the second canoeing training in the water and straight after that I have got another training in the gym.
When all training is done, it's dinner time with my beloved ones: family or close friends. If I have a chance, I do have a sport's body massage just before sleep. As a sportsman I am enjoying most, when I can give myself 100%. For that reason it is important to have no stressful environment or situations around me.
What brings success to the professional sportsman?
I think the main thing in sport is the hard work. Since I started canoeing, I realized how much important is that. I do not feel talented or gifted, but i do feel that I have strong self-control and self-motivation to reach my goals. I never skipped any training, just because of laziness or bad mood. As i said, I strongly believe that success is 99% of hard work and 1% of luck.
How do you rate your performance in 2019?
The season of 2019 has been extremely crazy. There were ups and downs. Since my favourite distance C-1 200 m has been taken out of the Olympic contest, I am practising and developing my skills in C-2 1000 m.
Even though we were training really hard and for long hours, me with my college had some difficulties this season. Twice we got disqualification in the international competitions and in European games we took only the 15th place.
As a sprinter in C-1 200 m I was also participating in the European games. Unfortunately I was not lucky enough to reach the medals in the final. The weather conditions were not very helpful or even equal to all participants.
On the other hand, my last start of this year in C-1 200 m was the best in my whole career! This summer in the world championship in Szeged, Hungary I became the golden winner and brought gold medal to my country.
How do you prepare mentally for a race? How do you stay focused and keep a cool head at the starting line and during the race?
Before competitions I always try to imagine everything how it has to be. Mentally I stay focus on idea, that no matter how hard it will be, I will do it. When I stay in the start line, I do try to switch off my head and stay focused only on the finish line, which I have to reach as soon as I can!
During competitions there is mostly only one thought in my head: hold on, stay strong, you can do it, one more! Mostly in C-1 2OO m the last 50-30 meters are the hardest part, when you push yourself as much as you can!
What plans do you have for the next year?
The main goal for the next year is to get tickets to Tokyo Olympic games and prove specially for myself that I can be the winner in C-2 1000 m as well!
Who do you think are your main rivals? Who is your strongest rival in the season?
I have noticed that in the last few years more countries joined the canoeing sports. Also more new strong competitors are growing up. I think everyone is equal in the start line, because everything is only in your hands. Any person can surprise others or himself in any type of competitions, as it happened with me in 2O14, when I became the world champion in U23 qualification.
What are you ready to sacrifice for the sake of a gold Olympic medal?
To be honest, I think I am already sacrificing a lot, it's my time, it's my family time. I would like to give it more, especially to my wife. Family is my main value of this life and I think no award could change it. Of course, as a professional sportsman, I do think that the Olympic medal could be a perfect award for my career.
Henrikas Žustautas special for CanoeSport.