By Lana Sumner-Borema
Former Barry rower, Alejandra Alonso Alderete, started to dream of going to the Olympics in 2014, after making it to the A finals at the Young Olympic games in rowing.
Since then, the former sports management major has been preparing for her big shot at the Olympic and Paralympic Qualification Regatta, which occurred on March 4 and 5. Alonso Alderete came in second in the women’s single A finals with a qualifying time of 8:09.82. This secured her ticket to the Tokyo 2021 Olympic games.
The competition included athletes from twelve different Latin and South American countries. All women had to race in a two-kilometer spring race known as a “heat.” Alonso Alderete won first place in her heat, qualifying her for the women’s single A finals, where she won second place and secured her ticket to the Olympics.
Alonso Alderete, a Paraguayan national, came to Barry after being recruited by former rowing head coach Boban Rankovic in Spring 2017. She had to leave the rowing program in 2019 to prepare for her Olympic qualification competition. She plans to return after the Olympics.
Current head coach of Barry’s rowing team, Nicholas Johnson, said that allowing Alonso Alderete to leave the team after Spring 2019 to work toward her Olympic dream was a “no-brainer.”
“The opportunity to race at the Olympics is something every rower dreams about, and the Division II model allows her to stay home and not lose any eligibility,” said Johnson.
Despite Alonso Alderete’s eagerness and her coach’s support, qualifications in 2020 were delayed for one year due to the pandemic. Still, Alonso Alderete didn’t let her focus dwindle when COVID-19 struck.
“After the announcement, I started to adapt how I was going to handle the situation, and again I took advantage to work on my fitness,” said Alonso Alderete.
Back home in Paraguay, Alonso Alderete spent a lot of time on the rowing machine. Her time on the two-kilometer rowing test improved by thirteen seconds.
Despite her rigid practice schedule with Barry, Alonso Alderete always put in extra hours to improve her rowing. Since the kind of rowing she was doing in the Varsity 8 boat at Barry was different from what she had to row at the qualification regatta and Olympics.
At Barry, the rowing conducted is called sweeping. This is performed with one oar and used in the eight and four-person boats.
The other type of rowing is sculling, which is typically done with two oars and in the one or two-person boats. This is what Alonso Alderete needed to do to qualify in Paraguay.
In order to master her sculling technique, Alonso Alderete began working with Eduardo De Camillis, founder and head coach of Decamillis Rowing Academy. De Camillis and Alonso Alderete knew each other in Paraguay, before Alonso Alderete came to Barry.
De Camillis called Alonso Alderete an “easy-going girl, who is very demanding in the technique.” He added that she always asked questions to fully understand any technical changes she needed to make. Because of this, De Camillis describes Alonso Alderete as a “real athlete.”
Alonso Alderete’s dedication to developing her athletic ability is shown in the number of hours she spent on the water and in the gym leading up to her Olympic qualification.
“I used to train in the morning and afternoon with the team [at Barry], but as soon as I finished there I would run to the club [with De Camillis] to row the single and then come back to campus to do homework and study,” said Alonso Alderete. On the weekends, she continued to train in the mornings, both with Barry’s team and with De Camillis.
The intense training regimen paid off. She attributes her success to the support of her friends, family and coaches. The sports psychology department at Barry was also a huge help to Alonso Alderete as she was able to keep a strong mindset as she worked toward the Olympics.
This mindset is the reason Coach Johnson believes Alderete is the “perfect rower.”
While physical characteristics are usually scrutinized to determine an athlete’s ability, Johnson claims that it is Alonso Alderete’s love for the sport that has led to her success.
Alejandra will be competing in the Tokyo Olympics in July 2021. While the day-to-day schedule remains tentative, Coach Johnson encourages Barry students to stay tuned to watch Alderete represent her country and Barry University in the women’s single scull heats.