Can you imagine if you can defend master thesis in Civil Engineering and few days after you can set two swimming records at World Swimming Championship? That’s what happed to Pedro Miquel Pinotes. How to set swimming records, have a good school grades and a good dose of conviviality and African music? Read here.
Pedro Miguel Pinotes was born in Viana, Angola, but he does not have many memories from there. From Mozambique, yes, it has many memories. From both nations he carries much of what he is today.
“I left Angola with only two years and a few months. I came to Portugal, a little less than two years later, I returned to Africa, this time to Mozambique, where I lived until I was seven and from which I have a lot of memories. Despite having been in Portugal for many years, I still have habits and influences of African culture, especially in music and gastronomy” says Pedro, an Angolan international since 2008: “I returned to Angola for the first time in 2004 to go on vacation and see some friends of my parents and family. On that occasion, I ended up training at the Nautical Club of Luanda Island, by invitation of that club, and since then I was referenced to represent the Angolan team, which happened from 2008” he explains.
To compete for Angola is a way, for him, to follow the natural order of things. “I take great pride in representing my country, although I don’t spend as much time there as I would like. I look forward to living there when my swimmer’s career ends” he reveals. Though sometimes it is inglorious to represent his country, given the setbacks of competing in Africa: “I participate in all the major Angolan and African competitions and I purposely travel to Angola for a little over a month for that. Sometimes unforeseen things happen that undermine all my preparation and that is the most negative point of representing an African team. For example, in 2008, in the African Swimming Championships, they canceled some events of the calendar”.
At the World Short Pool Championship held in Doha, United Arab Emirates, this young man who a few days ago had defended his master’s thesis in Civil Hydraulic Engineering at the Instituto Superior Técnico de Lisboa, set two new records, one personal and one national, in the 400 meters free and 100 meters’ styles, respectively. Swimming records, good school grades and a good dose of conviviality and African music – a combination acquired by the example of a more rigorous posture taken by his father, José Manuel Pinotes, and another social, mainly by her mother, Maria da Graça Pinotes, who is also in love with the sea. And indeed, water is always present: In college, where the area he studies is related to it; in his sports life with swimming; and at leisure, with his father’s boat that likes to drive on the Tagus River. It’s a case to say: ‘Water from morning to night’.
Of the three water options, one seems to be taking its last steps. But only time will tell: “It will always depend on his option. Sooner or later, you will have a professional challenge and it is up to you to think about what you want and whether it is possible to reconcile or not” says coach Carlos Cruchinho. In any case, Pedro Pinotes will always have the option to follow the steps of the old glory António Bessone Basto – from whom he has received a scarf of his name and often goes swimming in the waters of the Tagus.
In the World Cup, in five disputed categories, Pedro Pinotes was far from medals in all of them. A handful of complicated situations or it was not a World Championship! The athlete has represented Angola since 2008. Now, at the Olympic Games, the Sporting Clube de Portugal swimmer will face new challenges, but the pool from which he has departed and the one he will dive in will be sufficient reasons to make him proud of his path.
An Interview with Pedro Miguel Pinotes
Can you tell us about our sports career?
I started in swimming competition at 12 years in Alentejo (south of Portugal). I participated in national competitions for 5 years and at the age of 18 years old I moved to Lisbon to join Instituto Superior Técnico (university) and train/compete for Sporting Clube de Portugal – after a year at Sporting Clube de Portugal I was named captain of the absolute team.
As a result of a considerable evolution in sport, I achieved several Angolan national records and was called to the National Team of Angola for the first time in 2008, to represent the country where I was born. That same year I reached the podium in Portuguese competitions and the following year I was the national champion of Portugal, due to dual nationality. In 2011 I helped Sporting Clube de Portugal reach its first ever Portuguese men’s title. In 2013 I achieved my first Portuguese national record and at the national level, I won my first medal in an African championship in 2008. In 2011 I managed to qualify for my first Olympic Games with a minimum B at 400m Styles.
At academic level, after a graduation without any disapproval during the 3 years of it, at the time of the Olympic Games I decided to do the master degree in 3 years, instead of the 2 recommended years. I finished my studies as a master in Civil Engineering – average of 15 values – defending my final thesis in 2014 with 18 values. After 2 years of exclusive dedication to sports, in 2016 I started my professional activity as an Engineer, which I have done so far.
I currently count on 2 Olympic Games appearances, 10 World Championship appearances, 4 African Championship/ medals, 8 consecutive club titles for Sporting Clube de Portugal and several national titles and records in Angola and Portugal.
What does sport mean to you?
It represents an essential pillar and a link between my youth and transition into adulthood. It was sport that brought me and taught me the main values that I apply today in both professional and family life. I am convinced that the discipline, the lessons learned and the sensations experienced in playing sport make me a more balanced person and help me daily in the most diverse situations of daily life. With sport I made the friendships that I consider more lasting and I was still lucky enough to meet my current wife through sport.
How and when did you become interested in a sport life?
It was around the age of 15 years old, when I started to participate in the first competitions at national level. Until then, the competitions I held were regional and I considered swimming as a hobby activity to my studies, a way of cleaning my mind and keep me active. The feeling of wanting to be better and being able to compete with the best led me to focus more on training and slowly to realize that sport was not just something parallel but the main complement to my training as a person. Friendships created in sport have played a key role in arousing interest in sport, but I believe that the challenges that sport creates have been the main reason for arousing an interest that lasts to this day.
When did you realize you could have a sports career? And how did that make you feel?
I realized that I could have a sports career when I joined Sporting Clube de Portugal in 2007 at the age of 18 years old. The passion and fervor for the high sports performance that where common to all members of the club made it very logical and fulfilling the bet on an intense and ambitious career. Being in a club with Sporting Clube de Portugal history and size made it feel like this was the natural way. The pursuit of the goals I set and the attainment of those goals naturally make anyone happy with you, and I felt that my sports career could give me those good times.
Does your routine change a lot in the pre-competition period? If so, in what sense?
I would not say that it changes considerably, as a good athlete never ceases to be at any time. But these are always very strict periods. These are usually relatively short periods (2 to 4 weeks) and during them all the details count. Nothing can be done by chance and in our mind is always the aim and the goal for which we work. These are periods of more difficult emotional management. On the other hand, we have to be relentless in doing exactly what we think is right but as perfection simply does not exist we have to be able to relativize everything we do less well – to feel confidence on the day of the competition.
What is your training routine like? How did you reconcile sports life with school and family/social life?
Nowadays training routine and sports life are a fundamental part of my life. The key for me has always been to set priorities because there are times for everything. There were times when sports life was above academic life and there were times when it was the opposite. And clearly a student / athlete has to clearly understand two things: i) have a good understanding of the limits, that is, if I want to have good sports and academic results I will not be able to lead the same social life as colleagues who only devote themselves to studies; ii) Understanding that priorities change throughout life and those who do not neglect their other priorities always benefit from a new situation. Of course, the bottom line is: Support from family and friends is critical to the difficult situations that may rise at some point. They must be part of all processes and the athlete’s merits must be felt and shared by all.
What was your best time as an athlete? How did you feel?
Fortunately, there were several. But it is hard to forget the qualification for the first Olympic Games. It is a goal that all true sportsmen and sportswomen want and achieving it obviously brings a sense of accomplishment. I could mention many other sensations but I think this is the one that most expresses a great achievement.
What was your worst moment as an athlete? How did you feel?
It’s not easy to choose. I have always had an attitude of valuing and learning from less good situations. I believe there is always a lesson to be learned and that will make us stronger. But having to choose, I consider that the times when performance or participation in sport is conditioned by bad decisions and ethical behavior by sports leaders are the ones that cost me the most as an athlete. In my opinion, an athlete always needs to have a goal in mind and that goal must be clear and the rules to achieve it must also be objective and invariable. Throughout my career, both myself and my colleagues, I felt that a better quality of sports driving could have brought more and better sports results. When this happens I feel a sense of disability and resignation that cost a lot to someone who almost daily fights for his overcoming.
What do you plan to do when you finish your career as an athlete or how did you adapt to “civil” life?
I plan to continue to play sport as an integral part of a healthy life physically and mentally. I was adapted to civil life by increasing the number of times when sport was not my top priority, sometimes because working life demanded it, sometimes because the family and its routines required it as well. I think it is easier when done progressively and in a structured way.
How was the end of your sports career? And how did you feel?
The end of my sports career (high performance, in my case) came when I stopped having goals that justified the intense practice of the sport and that abdicated so many other things necessary for sports excellence. End-of-career management should always be like a balance sheet. When the balance tends more towards the professional/family/ etc … it is important that we understand that our moment has passed and we prepare to always end positively, as it will be essentially from these last moments that we will remember.
What advice would you give to young athletes starting their sports career?
May they be ambitious and dreamers, but whenever possible conscious. And seek those who can teach and transmit the true values of sport – respect and consideration for the opponent, cooperation, overcoming, among many others … In a society with a clear “crisis” of values, it is up to the sports society a relevant role in its streaming. For those who think that sporting values are restricted exclusively to sport clearly have not assimilated them.
Any particular stories or examples you want to mention?
I practice a so-called “individual” modality which, for me, was never “individual”. Not just for being team captain, but when I look back and see that my successes are closely linked to my team’s successes. When we really want something, we have to be the main engine, but when a group of people come together and focus around a common goal, nothing is unreachable.