Paddling onto the podium

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Athens hero David Cal trains hard for Beijing Olympics

19 February 2008

PONTEVEDRA - David Cal, the 25-year-old canoeist from Galicia who won gold and silver at the 2004 Athens Olympics, is again one of Spain's medal favourites at this year's Games. Cal's goal is to win two gold medals in Beijing. If he succeeds, he'll be the only Spaniard to ever win three Olympic gold medals.

Like every morning at 9.15am, you'll find the canoeist ready for his training session at the gym in Naval de Pontevedra yachting club. He is accompanied by his trainer Suso Morían.

Cal listens closely to his trainer as he speaks. He works out before taking his canoe to the Lérez River, where he'll train for 80 minutes. Call will be doing seven 1,000-metre sprints at a pace of four minutes per sprint, with a three to four minute rest period in between.

"He never says 'I give up,' it's a forbidden word for him," says the trainer. "The attack is his specialty. David can paddle with greater frequency than others, [he's] like Africans when they run."

Over a distance of 500 metres, Cal initially paddles 79 times a minute but then maintains a speed of 65 or 66. In a 1,000-metre event he may paddle less in a minute.

Morían explains that while Cal's paddle measures 71 centimetres, two or three millimetres can make a world of difference in a competition.

The initial impression one gets when you see the 1.85-metre Olympic medallist is that he's still not in optimal physical shape. But that will soon change, explains Morían.

"He weighs 93 kilos but in August he'll be 84 [kilos]," says the trainer. "He doesn't diet. All he has to do is cut down on what he eats because he's incredibly well disciplined." Cal had previously abandoned Pontevedra due to differences with his trainers. As a result, he went to Trasona in Asturias. He consequently took a gold and bronze medal in the 1,500-metre and 1,000-metre races at the world championships held last year in Duisburg, Germany.

Cal has suffered other setbacks. Last year he forgot to renew a EUR 38,000-grant from the regional government for top sportsmen. Despite this, he has received pledges of EUR 86,000 from ADO and EUR 90,000 from the Fundación Rías Baixas.

Cal trains constantly for the Olympics. In a few days he will go with his trainer to Portugal and on 22 June he'll be in Asturias.

When Cal arrives in Beijing, he'll have canoed 3,700 kilometres. Asked if he's nervous, he responds: "Why should I be?.. I warm up, concentrate and then compete."

[Copyright EL PAÍS / XABIER R. BLANCO 2008]

Subject: Spanish news

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