A STORY OF PERSONAL AND SPORTS OVERCOMING
Mental barriers are more difficult to overcome than physical ones.
“BIENVE” DIRECTOR OF THE CHILEAN ROWING FEDERATION
63 years old, husband of Otilia, father of two children, Carles, 38, and Jordi, 30, and grandfather, two grandchildren Idaira, 5 years old and Alex, 1 month.
From May 29th to June 17th of this year, we had the pleasure, from Agenda Sports & Elements, to coordinate the training camps of the Chilean Rowing Federation, at the CNB and in lake Banyoles, witnessing the work of the recognized head coach Mr. Bienve Front.
His personal history begins at 6 months with the infected vaccine, like most of his time, with which he acquired Poliomyelitis and was in a wheelchair, with motor paralysis all over the right side of the body.
After many operations, based on practicing a lot of sport and with a large dose of personal improvement, he recovered almost all the mobility of the body, except the right leg, being able to lead a practically normal life.
In those ages, it reinforces his character and his self-esteem every time he takes a girl to dance, since at that moment it was much more difficult to break the barriers of the collective mind, both physical and aesthetic. He says he was successful, in principle, because he was strong and handsome, but that all the women on the short trip to the dance floor had a headache or whatever. He always answered them, “you miss it!”.
Until, at age 14, Otilia, would admire his strength beyond his physique and almost 40 years later they are still dancing!
In summer he swam in the river and paddled in winter. Thus, he became involved in the world of sports in general and in the rowing in particular, from 14 to 17 years.
Bienve says that at that time it was more difficult to have a physical difficulty, since society was not prepared and was crueler in terms of providing opportunities to people with a “physical defect”, as was said.
When he came of age he did the oppositions for the post office, in which he had 5º of 3,000 people, proud and happy to be able to choose a destination, but with a strange appointment in the results report … Bienve went to Barcelona, by motorcycle with one of his best friends, to the appearance of that quote in which literally said “it is not suitable by physical defect” (to work in the offices). Bienve had to grab his friend who wanted to beat the court in the face of such injustice.
At the age of 19, aware of his physical limitations, he decided to dedicate himself to be a technician, and receive training and a project to become an Olympic rowing coach. And not only did he get it, but he is currently one of the best in the world.
From 1979 to 1984 he was coach of Club Nautico de Amposta, where he is, although in an amateur way, combining it with a full-time job.
In 1984, he requested a leave of absence in his company and decided to bet exclusively on his passion for sports, on the occasion of the Olympic Games in Los Angeles 1984, where his rowers would obtain the sixth position. From then on he started working in the “Club Natació de Banyoles”. Until 1988, it combines both clubs, along with collaborations in the Spanish Rowing Federation, throughout the country.
In 1988 he had his first contact with Chile in a collaboration with a” Doble Scull “for the Olympic Games in Seoul as coach of Chile, not having a place as coach of the Spanish Federation, and taking into account that Bienve helped “Rojas” brothers (Chileans) and at the same time trained the 2x of the two Manolos, Vera and Bermúdez representing Spain, Chile offered him the possibility of representing the Chilean Rowing Federation. This was a curious case, in which the Spanish would be in seventh place and in thirteenth Chileans, the first classification of importance that Bienve would provide to the country which in the future would become the Pan-American rowing champion.
From 1988 to 1998 he works mainly for the “Federación Catalana” in Bañolas and continues to collaborate with the Spaniards.
From 1998 to 2004 he focuses his work as a coach at the “Club Natació de Banyoles” with great success.
From 2005 to 2012 he was in the Catalan Federation, which would also be the golden age where he would achieve the greatest triumphs for 4 consecutive years, something that nobody had yet achieved.
Already in 2013, Christian Gómez, technical manager of the Chilean Rowing Federation, proposes the position of “Head Coach” to which he has access.
Here begins a new stage at a professional level, in which he promotes a change in the technical system, along with his team that values a lot, doing tandem with Christian Gómez and having 3 high level coaches such as Alejandro Otero, Augusto. . Grandjean and Felipe Recart, in addition to 3 other coaches and all the team of rowers he already considers his Chilean family.
As for the personal, in the first three years, Otilia accompanies him in this new challenge and is established to live with him in Chile. Together they live the rebirth of love and fall in love again:
-We started feeling butterflies in my stomach at 57 and 53 years old-. The figure of his wife in this first stage is key to Bienve in adapting to a new country and culture.
Since as he says his physique does not accompany him:
-I often saw the disappointment in the eyes of the rowers, politicians and technicians who expected to receive a tall and strong Spanish coach-.
Normally coaches who have a physical deficiency tend to be “a posteriori” cause of a sports injury and therefore are heroes.
Bienve is the only coach who has had to renounce and demonstrate more than others by breaking the barriers of preconceived “taboos” of their physical limitations “a priori” and earning the respect and admiration of rowers and technical teams, as well as institutions. Thing that today reads as an advantage for the “surprise effect” that naturally exerts his charisma and strong personality when one knows him and sees him train.
Minister Pauline Kantor and Pan American Games President Neven Illic, who signed him when he was president of Chile’s Olympic Committee in 2013, regularly send whats-apps to find out how he is, to name a couple of personalities with whom he has made friendship, in this world where work does not allow it.
Since he did not usually stay long at home even after the two births. Not being able to participate in education and school monitoring, for the various trips and Olympic commitments of his demanding professional dedication, has tearful eyes that in this profession you have to know how to make sacrifices.
Nowadays still living in different continents, they are very close, his wife and he speak 3 times a day and share everything in the distance.
Bienve is a beloved character, known and recognized, both in the world of rowing and by his neighbors who invite him to a barbecue and care because he is well, as the families Carbajal, Opazo, Godoy, Manfred, etc.
Although sometimes loneliness peeks out from under the door – as our character says – he also likes it, because it allows him to enjoy the reading of historical themes above all, both of the 1st and 2nd GM how about the current theme of Independence de Catalunya, as well as being up to date with everything related to rowing and coaching.
He emphasizes having learned a lot on a personal and professional level from Yamil Dremel, a well-known coach who collaborates with Michael Phelps, a very relevant figure and expert in the elite sport of the USA.
Currently, his tandem with Christian Gómez at a professional level is a crucial support on a day-to-day basis, since Bienve recognizes to demand a lot to take care of his rowers every time they travel to go to training or to compete. Petitions that Gómez manages to satisfy with his talent and perseverance in the shade. As the women of both would say, the “marriage” Front-Gómez works.
In this period as Head Trainer he has obtained 8 gold medals and 6 silver medals, 14 medals (of 14 that could be obtained) prevailing as leaders of South America in several categories of rowing, that’s when they asked him what was the secret of the success Bienve answered:
-I do not know what is the key to success, but I do know the one of failure: Trying to please everyone. When you try to please everyone, you always fail in some aspect or with someone.
Speaking of the coincidence of having quadruplets in the team, two boys and two girls, of which the sisters Abraham Melita and Antonia, are gold medal; Bienve said he was not going to separate them to divide forces and make a team more fair but less athletically. It is not positive to lower the performance of some paddlers to balance it with the others, it is necessary to do the reverse to promote the good ones so that the others try to reach that level.
Bienve Front knows that mental and physical strength have to go hand in hand in elite athletes to become Olympians, stresses that the success of the sisters, having a normal physique, is due, above all, to their powerful mental strength, which the coach learned at an early age in his own flesh.
Front is therefore a born and balanced leader, which is not fair because you cannot please everyone in the world of sports, but equitable in the sense of giving the same opportunities when testing all the rowers.
When I asked him what he would change about his life, he told me a resounding:
-NOTHING- and added: -I would not change my physique for the canon of beauty and sport (being blond, tall, athletic, strong with blue eyes, etc.) or have all the opportunities of birth, for being who and how I am-.
Bienve has an overwhelming personality, an innate leadership that makes him feel proud of being “oneself”. The only thing I would rectify is to learn more of his mistakes: -Because my mistakes in this sport are people-.
Super lucky in his maturity to live this sweet stage in Chile and throughout his career, he says he lived very intensely in all places and places where he has been, with triumphs far above the norm, happy and in accordance with his professional life and marital where he will turn 40 soon.
She hopes to return to her village, where she confesses that it is hard for her to adapt the month and a half of training that is around here, and maybe continue advising Chile in the distance, a country from which she will not know how to leave:
“The day I leave, they’ll know I’m gone when I’m not here, I would not know how to say goodbye”.
He says that “when he grows up” he wants to enjoy his family and grandchildren, since he is aware that you cannot live more than 7-8 years with the same level of sport intensity and triumphs, in the same team and place, something that the Head Coach has been checking on his great journey.
From his guru and friend, Dr. Miquel Rutllant, director of the Sant Pau Hospital in Barcelona and president of the Catalan Rowing Federation from 2005 until 2014, he has learned his philosophy of life that lies in “what is and what is not important”.
We did say goodbye, excited by the confidential weather, that even the waiters at the “Club Natació de Banyoles” bar did not dare to interrupt. Clear example of the imposing and charismatic presence that the figure of the oar shows, which I had the great privilege of knowing as a coach and interviewing as a person.
– How lucky was the world of sports that the post office will not accept you due to a physical defect! – I said, and we smiled with complicity.
Bienve; -I’m happy and lucky, I would not change anything! –
Interview: Ingrid Rovira
Photography: Raquel Sanz