Q and A with Clint - a famous Australian
The Observer sports reporter Nick Kossatch sat down with Clint Robinson for a Q and A session. The Barcelona Olympic kayak gold medallist gives an insight how his fame began along with the highs and lows throughout his stellar career. Robinson became Australia's first kayak gold medallist after beating Norwegian World Champion Knut Holmann to win the K-1 1000-metre final at Barcelona at the 1992 Olympics. He conducted paddling and ski clinics in Yeppoon, Tannum Sands-Boyne Island and Bundaberg on the weekend to give back to a sport that his given him so much success over the past 30 years of competition. He explains where the sport of kayaking sits currently on the Australian sporting landscape.
NK: What's the main thing you want people to see you as?
CR: Look I think now when I was an athlete in my younger years enjoying the freedom doing it full-time, it was a very different scope because people wanted to see performance. Ultimately all that time and effort is what it's all about and effectively performance and results helps with the justification of all that time and effort you put in. Now I believe I'm more of an educator and try and transfer all those years of great coaching I have had into to help other people get a better result hopefully.
NK: What started your love affair with water?
CR: I don't know I've always just enjoyed being in the water. M y parents used to go to the Sunshine Coast when I was a young child and I've always spent seven or eight hours in the water and after the first few days of a six week holiday, I'd end up in the medical centre through sunburn in my eyes and too much salt water. So I was a bit of a water baby as a kid and genuinely loved it and I think that everything just grew from there.
NK: Why the nickname Ferret?
CR: Ferret is just a name I actually called when I first started kayak paddling. I used to train from a river location on the Sunshine coast where I still train today and the fellow that lived there, a young guy but a little older than me, his nickname was Ferret. He started calling me that nickname in front of a lot of people and it ended up catching on to me and he lost it and I got it.
NK: So you made the choice from playing rugby league at a young age to life saving. Why the choice?
CR: Look, I think my parents identified that I was doing far too much sport and I was in the Queensland Junior State of Origin team and also competing for the state lifesaving team and basically my parents said that I was missing too much school and that I had to make a choice. I always wanted to go to the Olympic Games so I effectively gave up football and followed the dream of surf lifesaving to become a kayak paddler and that's how it all really started.
NK: Winning the first gold medal in kayaking in Barcelona, how has that changed your life?
CR: It changes your life a lot and a lot of people say that if you are an Australian champion, people will talk about it for maybe three or four months. But, if you are a world champion then people will talk about it for a couple of years. The thing that is quite interesting is that the Olympic champion seems to sit beside your name for the rest of your life. While there are benefits of having that, there is also a lot of pressure attached to that and a lot of expectations. I have always been a person that likes to try and achieve things whether it is for myself or other people who I am coaching, so that is part of what I do now.
CR: The highlight of my career was when I won my first Australian title and as a kid I always wanted to be a national champion. So the 1987 Australian Championships in Scarborough Beach in Perth when I won the Cadet Malibu Board Race, that was my most, I suppose, relevant memory that I always will attribute back to.
CR: That was when I went to my last Olympic Games and we had a second or third-best crew in the world and we ended up missing the final through various reasons that will always stay within the crew. It was quite disappointing when you do the work for four years and then a bit of an unravelling takes place at the highest level.
NK: The sport of kayaking, how is its status in Australia and where does that lie?
CR: Kayaking has always been quite a successful sport, but it ended up achieving its weakest medal intake at the Rio Olympics, so the sport is going through a bit of scrutiny at the moment like rowing and swimming and a lot of other sports in Australia. It's always been one of the key sports for the amount of people in it and the amount of money it costs where it tends to do well, but we only effectively got one medal in sprints and one medal in slalom at this Olympic Games which as I said has certainly been one of our lowest medal intakes for a very long time. So the sport is under a fair bit of scrutiny at the moment and rightfully so.
NK: What motivates you to do one of these clinics?
CR: I genuinely love the industry. I've learned a lot from a lot of people in my time and this is the way I put back, so I want to see other people hopefully benefit from the lessons that I have been able to learn from being a young kid to winning more individual national gold medals than any other athlete in the sport. You know I have had help from a lot of people to achieve that so I am just genuinely really trying to put back and help people.