By Bianca Silva
Gabrielle Amato’s blossoming rowing talent is difficult to ignore. As the Miami native is wrapping up her junior year of high school through an online school program (she plans on re-enrolling at Miami Beach Senior HS for her senior year) that helps her keep up with her studies as she trains for rowing competitions, she has achieved more than a teenaged girl could imagine.
In 2016, she became the first rower to represent Haiti in the Rio Olympics. This year, she has placed gold, silver and bronze in the Central America Regional Rowing Regatta, the American Cup, El Tigre contest in Buenos Aires and the Sarasota Sculling Championship in Florida among other competitions. Her latest competition was the U.S. Youth Nationals race on June 7.
For Amato, it’s surreal having been competing at a professional level for the past five years and is speaking to various universities on possibly rowing for them, even more knowing that she began rowing as a result of her mom looking for summer camps at the age of 11.
“I enjoy the rush of it and also enjoy competing against other people,” she says about rowing.
Amato speaks with the Haitian Times on her preparation for a race, life outside rowing and her future.
When you’re competing against other people, what’s your approach, your mentality when you’re training for a competition?
When I’m training for a competition, I usually double up on my training. I would go for a run. My mindset is just calm, cool and respectful and kind to everyone else. I say “good luck” to everyone before the race; just a happy vibe and get the nerves out.
Do you have rowing competitions on a river?
Usually, the competitions are in Sarasota, and that was man made. That’s where we mostly compete but we also compete in Orlando. They have a lake there but where we practice, it’s right next to the airport. It’s a long area to row in. We put lots of meters in, long practices-sometimes, an hour long in the sun stuff. It’s hard but at the same time it’s good for us to train in that.
What was it like competing in Rio and representing Haiti in the Olympics?
It was an honor. I was pretty nervous. I was going up against people twice my age in the Olympics who were world champions. For me, it was a learning race. You don’t always win and for me, I haven’t been in that environment yet; but when I was competing, I was hard on myself and mad and angry. My coach would tell me: “this is how you learn, this is how you train for it and how you get better.”
When he told me that, I used that to make the experience and be surrounded by people and lifted me up. He told me: “you have potential, don’t give up, just keep going.” So that’s what I did and it was an honor to represent my country.
What challenges you’ve faced so far rowing at a competitive level?
I was competing but I wasn’t competing at a high level with Olympians or rowing champions. When I went to Rio for the first time competing against those type of rowers, it was a good experience to see how they train and to hear about their stories and how they got to where they are. It opened up my eyes and from that point on, I’ve doubled my training. I’ve been running, eating right and managing my time which is really good for when I go to college. I’ll have a set routine to keep me on track.
What do you like to do when you’re not rowing?
When I’m not rowing, I like to hang out with my rowing friends on my team. We go to the beach or we go to the pool. Sometimes, I hang out with my friends from school and we go to the pool or relax or [I] have time for myself.
What are your plans for the future? Are you looking forward to compete in other olympics?
What I’m trying to do for 2020 is to compete in the Olympics for Haiti and I have to do the qualifiers in April. Hopefully, I make it. I would love to represent Haiti throughout the future, through college, and maybe even after college.