A sports teacher’s wish to encourage young people to exercise has led her on an 18-hour kayak challenge between Malta and Sicily.
Triathlete Karen Amato kayaked 97 kilometres with fellow endurance athletes Daniel Seguna and Ruben Vassallo on Monday last week.
The Skolasport teacher said she wanted to raise awareness about the importance of exercise after witnessing students adopting sedentary lifestyles during the pandemic.
All three left St Paul’s Bay on Monday at 4.45am and reached Ragusa, Sicily, at 8.30pm. They were accompanied by a support crew that followed them by boat and provided them with the food and water they needed.
Amato said the idea to row to Sicily started some time ago when they went on a kayaking trip around Comino but they wanted to attach a cause to their challenge.
“Due to the pandemic, I realised that young people were not exercising or working out. Exercise had stopped and we saw a lot of fast food being consumed,” she said.
“I wanted to raise awareness about the importance of exercise and the risks of obesity,” she said referring to the fact that schools were closed for several months, with many resorting to online schooling.
“We want young people to know that, no matter what sports you do, or for how long – the distance is not important.
“What’s important is that you do something because it will become a lifestyle. The feel good factor is amazing,” she said.
And athletes are not immune to feelings of disheartenment while practising their sport.
“On the day it was a 90 per cent mental challenge. There were times when you just want to give up.”
But, Amato adds, they kept each other motivated, looking forward to the short breaks they got every hour and listening to music to remain motivated.
“One of the biggest challenges was the heat. It was getting really hot.
“We were looking forward to our 10-minute breaks… at some point all you see is the open sea. When you start seeing Sicily you’re still 40 kilometres away. It feels like you will never get there – but we did,” she says.
And to practise what she preaches – a few hours after waking up yesterday morning and after rowing for 18 hours – Karen went for a two-hour kayak around Ragusa.
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