Interview with Peter Galambos, European Champion, World Championships silver medalist rower
Truth be told, it’s baffling to introduce Peti Galambos. If I was to recite the most prominent successes of his career, it would also take longer, than the interview itself. It wasn’t easy anyway, as he was in training camp for weeks abroad, preparing for this season and as he says himself, for him sport comes first. The first thing, that comes to my mind about the 33-times Hungarian Champion, with many European and World Championship titles, the so called Kisgalamb (Little Dove), is humbleness.
Let the short interview commence, with just as many questions and answers, that a professional, born athlete has time for, amidst multiple daily trainings:
- What were you dreaming about as a child?
I dreamed of many things, but sport wasn’t on the list. I was a corky guy, but didn’t feel the need to do sports. I was fine with basketball trainings at elementary school twice a week.
- When did you first step in a boat?
Right on the first training in September 2000. I started rowing – thanks to a lucky coincidence – relatively late, I was 14 years old at the time. Until then, I wasn’t familiar with this sport.
- When did this ‘lucky coincidence’ occur?
I was biking along the Danube River, as I laid eyes on a good friend, who was rowing. I figured, I’d wait for him, until he finishes his training and we’d ride back home together. Meanwhile coach Károly Rapcsák came up to me and convinced me to start rowing. It wasn’t in my intention to go in for this sport, but he insisted on it and I tried it the next day. And I stuck down there.
- How did you become a competitor?
At the beginning I only thought of rowing as a hobby, it was more the community, that drew me there, than the possibility of being successful once. Never in a million years would I have imagined to be such a successful competitor.
After 1-2 years the first successes came. At first, I had to catch up with my age-group, who started rowing way before me. These got me to take sports seriously. And I slowly began to climb the ladder, one step at a time.
- Were you certain of finding your way?
I didn’t care back then, if I was on the right track or not. I lived life to the fullest, just like every teenage guy should. I went rowing, because the company was great down there. The love for rowing started after this. It was good to belong to a community. Now – aside from the success – I know, that I found my way. I got so much out of sport, countless experiences and adventures. It made a man out of me, to be able to hold myself well. In the end, but not at last, I found most of my friends here.
- Did you have role models?
Of course. As I was beginning to take it more seriously, I kept a close eye on the national rowers and athletes around me. I tried to mimic everything I could. I learned a lot about mentality, technic and attitude.
- And how did you manage to tone in this rate of living with private life?
This style of living, being an athlete comes with a lot of regrets, or we can call them sacrifices. As I found an aim in sports, I took these sacrifices upon myself. A lot of things weren’t a priority anymore, in order to put preparation first.
- Can you tell me an example?
For example, I missed a lot of family events, because I was either in training camp or at a competition. It was the same with school trips and programs, which would have tied me to the school community. Beyond these, I fought a lot of battles in relationships as well. I was away a lot at competitions and training camps. We couldn’t spend much time together. However, I managed to graduate from schools and went to parties, to switch off a few times, but it’s obvious, that I didn’t party as much as the others of my age. I didn’t even feel the need to do it more often, I had other priorities.
- Being in a single scull, you spend a lot of time alone. What are you usually thinking about?
While rowing, my thoughts aren’t wandering most of the times. These times I’m there physically and mentally as well. It’s hard to do a perfect stroke, so I have to concentrate the whole time. Beyond rowing, running is - amongst others - one of my favorite supplementary sports. Right there, my mind is working more. I like running amongst other things, because that’s when I usually find an answer to my problems and I can get to a meditative state of mind.
- Do you have any type of rituals, habits before a competition?
I wouldn’t consider myself being superstitious. I’m not afraid of black cats, and I don’t care about Friday the 13th. However, I have habits, that I like to go through the same way before a competition. These are more rather acts, mantras, movements. I don’t have a real mascot.
But music plays an important part in adjustment. Without it, I couldn’t even imagine a competition. Before the start of a race, it’s scheduled on the tick what I do and when I do it: how and how long I warm up, what I eat and drink.
Yes, not just one. Of course, right then and there it’s hard to endure, there were times when I suffered. But no matter if it sounds cliche or not, sport really thought me to get up and start all over again. I never seen a single person, who hadn’t experienced failure. I think these are stages of learning. You will get bigger. I was hurt, missed competitions because of illnesses, I lost by hundredths or even road lengths. I had to fight my battles with ill-wishers, but these made the athlete out of me, who I’m today.
- How do you process failure and defeat?
I give it time. I had to practice this as well. I take time for ‘mourning’. I let my thoughts flow. I never made light of failure. Moreover, I drew strength from it.
- How did you feel, when you received a medal at the European Championships?
A lot went through my head at that moment. The last 19 years flashed through my head. Especially the last 10 years, since I chased this dream. I wanted to hear the Anthem. I stood on different platforms of the podium over the years, but this was the first time, that I won on the World or European Championships. This is a result of tremendous work, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I hope to have more pleasant experiences like this.
- Maybe, you are now a role model to someone else?
I think, yes. As I had role models in my emerging years, I think, as of today, I can serve as one as well. It’s not just about my successes, as it’s merely about my attitude and behavior.
Was it truly by accident, that Peti was riding a bike along the Danube River, that he got into the boat the next day, that he found friends in the rowing club, began to go to competitions, and became a standout athlete of Hungary? On the contrary, I’m getting more certain about the fact, that everything happens for a reason in our life: both the successes and failures. If I could make a wish – and why couldn’t I -, I’d wish, that successful ‘coincidences’ like this would show the way for those, who haven’t got anyone to hold their hand, or who lost hope because of all the disappointments in their life. Peti, we thank you!