Lucas Calabrese: New Focus, Less Stress

Published on April 30th, 2016

People sail for many reasons, and those reasons change throughout life. You may start competing the minute you get in a boat but end on a lazy Sunday afternoon watching the world go by, and anything else in between.

Some people have defining moments which change the way they sail and the way they see the world, and Argentina’s Lucas Calabrese is one of those people.

Breaking down a four-year 470 Olympic campaign with crew Juan de la Fuente, Calabrese says, “It was a tough one for us. We started pretty much after Weymouth [London 2012] and were in pretty good shape. We were having consistent finishes, but then we stopped for about nine or ten months. I had some stomach issues.

“Then we came back pretty strong and motivated after being away from sailing for so long, but we have been catching up. I think all the teams have been working longer than us and we have really been catching up in this last three or four months before the Games.”

With a break of around ten months in 2014, the stresses and strains of constant trips around the world on the Olympic trail had finally caught up with the Argentinian, “I started having some stomach pain so I went to the doctor, but you know how it is. You go to one, then to another, then another and the problem never really gets solved.

“They did all the tests they possibly could but couldn’t really find anything, so I thought it may have been stress related. A lot of trips, different places, travel, it takes its toll. It was hard. I lost a lot of weight. I tried loads of things. Go the natural way, then back to the medical way.”

Coming back to the place where his troubles all began, the Sailing World Cup Hyères, things could have gone a whole lot differently for Calabrese as he faced up to a word no one wants to hear, cancer, “That year in 2014 here in Hyères I got tested for a hormone. They found a weird hormone and they thought it was cancer, so I went home and did all the tests in a rush, but thank god it was a false alarm.

“After that you start thinking about life and what the important things are. For me it’s my wife and family and this is just what I do as a job where I can have as much fun as possible. It’s not a live or die thing.”

Sailing, like all sports, is inside of you. It’s something you can’t explain and Calabrese is no different to any other sailor in that way. Calabrese now has a different outlook of competition and the upcoming Olympic Games after he has experienced what he has, he doesn’t feel the weight of pressure anymore, “To be honest I don’t spend much time thinking about my chances of a medal. From what I have been through personally I just try to enjoy it more and focus on that side of the sailing.

“For me, I have one medal already so I don’t feel that kind of pressure. I just try to keep on improving and try my best every day, and if we do continue on our learning curve I’m sure something will come.”

Despite the new calmer outlook to competition, Calabrese is still that sailing racer at heart and a little of the old competitiveness comes out when he talks about the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, “Rio is tough. There are seven different areas and you have to know them all and master them all. We need to spend some time there, but we came here to Hyères to get more official races in. And our competition is here.”

Calabrese’s competition is tough in the Men’s 470 with the likes of Mat Belcher and Will Ryan (AUS), Stu McNay and David Hughes (USA) and Sime Fantela and Igor Marenic (CRO), to name but a few, all competing in Hyères, but Calabrese and de la Fuente are currently on course for the Medal Race as they sit in sixth overall.

The good news was that Calabrese never had the diagnosis he had feared, the bad news was that he never got any closure of what the problem actually was, “I never really knew what it was. I think it was just a combination of things like diet and stress. I assume it was more likely the stress. Not the stress of competition, but the way we were working and now we are just much better. I came up stronger, try and have more fun and learn, and that’s what matters to me.”

Closure or not, this campaign has changed Calabrese’s outlook on training, racing, sailing and life. And going forward, no stress is the pathway. Easier said than done in Olympic sailing.

Schedule: Sailing World Cup Hyères has four days of fleet racing starting April 27, culminating on May 1 with the Medal Races.

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Report by Richard Aspland, World Sailing.

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