Alexander ‘Sasha’ Belonogoff, of Australia’s Olympic Men’s Quadruple Sculls, is eager to get on the water and begin racing in Rio de Janeiro. The 26-year-old from Rockhampton feels the crew has had great preparation in Italy at the AIS European Training Centre and now it’s about getting down to business on Lagoa de Freitas.
“Preparation has gone pretty smoothly here in Italy. We’ve had a good run and haven’t had any injury or illness at this point and we’ve managed to get the work we’ve intended to do, done, which is a real positive.
“This period of time away has been good, I’ve noticed this long block in Italy it’s been really enjoyable, and I’ve found myself not counting down the days to departure, like I have perhaps done in the past, the ETC is certainly feels like a home base and we’ve a good routine here and have been able to get on with the job without any really difficulty.”
With the rowing section departing for Rio de Janeiro at the end of this week, Belonogoff admits he’s ready to get racing internationally again [the crew’s last international race was at World Cup 3 in Poznan in June, where they won gold]: “I’m really excited about beginning racing, having not been to an Olympics as an athlete before, I’m not too sure what to expect in terms of the magnitude of the event itself but I’m just really excited about freshening up and seeing how fast we can go.”
Belonogoff, a first time Olympian, will be joined by fellow debutant Cameron Girdlestone in the Men’s Quad, while returning Olympians, and bronze medallists, James McRae and Karsten Forsterling make up the remaining two spots in the crew.
“We have spoken about it a few times about what to expect from the Games, with Karsten and James and they have told us there can be distractions outside of the rowing that we wouldn’t experience at a normal World Championships, so I’m certainly prepared for that but I think that also we are all on the same page, and want to just go and race not worry about too much outside of our boat and we’ll look at other things once racing is completed.”
The crew has been coached to two gold medals this season (at World Rowing Cups 2 and 3) by John Driessen from Tasmania and Belonogoff believes Driessen’s calm nature with the crew is what’s helps deliver results on the water: “I think John’s strength is his patience and has a very balanced approach to rowing and to life. I think, having lived in the Huon Valley his whole life, he’s a laid back individual.
“The thing I like about Johnny as a coach he is very technically focussed and it’s something I relate to and I think it’s something I like to prioritise also. He’s done a great job at getting four single scullers moving together as one crew.”
Belonogoff is interested to see what being part of the Australian Olympic Team will be like, this being his debut Games: “I’m curious to see what the bond and relationship is like between the different sports and athletes under the Australian banner. I’m looking forward to meeting team members from across other sports and enjoying wearing the Green and Gold, as a supporter, in the second week and getting behind as many Aussies as I can.”
Belonogoff’s whole family will be travelling to Rio de Janeiro to support the athlete and it’s something he’s relishing: “I’m looking forward to sharing the experience with my family, as they’re coming out to watch me compete. We were lucky enough to watch the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games together and thought that would be our last time we would watch the Games live, all together, and now they’re all coming to Rio to watch me compete which is pretty special.”