Premiere Slovak rower, Lukáš Babač of Piešťany, won the silver medal at the 2010 World Rowing Championships held in November. Immediately after his triumphant return he started thinking of the next Olympic Games.
Sporting records show this as the greatest success by a Slovak rower since 1974. Babač had to travel to Karapiro Lake, New Zealand where the 2010 World Rowing Championships were held to fight for his victory. Karapiro Lake is renowned for its unpredictable weather conditions. Babač bravely competed in two disciplines at the same Championships – the men’s single sculls and the men’s lightweight sculls. The first discipline is an Olympic event; the second is not, although it suits him better with his low weight. This is why he has had his greatest achievements in this lightweight class – the silver medal at the World Championships, the bronze from the European Championships and the silver from the World Rowing Under 23 Championships.
The qualification for the Summer Olympics 2012 in London will be challenging. Lukáš can choose between the lightweight double sculls for which he would have to find a partner, or the single sculls without weight restriction. He used the World Championship as an opportunity to try this open discipline amongst other world-class competitors. Despite being 20 kg lighter and 20 cm shorter than the competition he managed to qualify for the C finals (13th – 18th place) before retiring to save his strength for the lightweight sculls finals.
This placement gives him hope of qualifying for the Olympics. Experts recommend that he doesn’t gain more weight as lighter sculls competitors have the advantage of a faster stroke.
Babač is taking his winter training session at Stanford University as his trainer, Piešťany native, Václav Kacíř is working there. Throughout the year they are perfecting his skills via the Internet but the personal contact will certainly be beneficial. He then wants to train on his home lake, Sĺňava. As he recently said to the SME daily, Piešťany is for him, the most beautiful town in the world: ”You can get everywhere by bike, there isn’t the stress of a big city and you have the mooring area here with its sophisticated tradition of water sports.“ He even mentioned the name of Robert Erban who was the first to attract world attention to the rowers of Piešťany.
Perhaps all kinds of sport in Slovakia lack funding. The non-Olympic disciplin of the single lightweight sculls is certainly considered a second-class sport by many sponsors. Sportsmen have to deal with this funding issue themselves. It is cheaper to hire a boat in the country holding the competition than to buy a boat and then cover the transportation costs. Lukáš is having a boat built in Germany at the moment so he can hire it in the future from the manufacturer. Let’s hope it will help him in other achievements in the near future.