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Article in the newspaper "Helsingborgs Dagblad" (translated to English)

2014-11-16

The difficult times have given Peter Berg a new perspective to the sport. "I'm enjoying the training session more now, because I know how fragile life is. For me a  two hours session on the rowing machine is not a burden, it´s a privilege," he says

The difficult times have given Peter Berg a new perspective to the sport. "I'm enjoying the training session more now, because I know how fragile life is. For me a  two hours session on the rowing machine is not a burden, it´s a privilege," he says.

For the original article in Swedish, click here

After an emotional roller coaster Peter Berg reached the highest peak in his rowing career. Meet Helsingborgs latest World Champion.

Almost a month has passed since Peter Berg dropped the oars, clenched his fists and roared with joy after becoming World Champion in Coastal Rowing for the first time. The race in Thessaloniki, Greece, was a display of power which has seldom been seen. He crossed the finish line a minute and a half ahead of the rest of the field - the largest margin of victory so far in the Mens Single at the World Championship.

The triumph will is not less remarkable that the Helsingborg Rower was hospitalized because of heart problems three weeks before the race.

- It has been a turbulent time, something of an emotional rollercoaster. I was very focused for the World Championship and knew exactly what needed to work for me to succeed. Yet it has taken time for me to understand what happened. It's almost as if I have to pinch myself in the arm, says Peter Berg when we meet Helsingborgs Rowing club's historic premises in North Harbour.

- It has been a turbulent time, something of an emotional rollercoaster. I was very focused for the World Championship and knew exactly what needed to work for me to succeed. Yet it has taken time for me to understand what happened. It's almost as if I have to pinch myself in the arm, says Peter Berg when we meet Helsingborgs Rowing club's historic premises in North Harbour.

A look into our archives show that the recent articles regarding Peter Berg is about setbacks almost as often as successes. The bad news has mostly been associated with heart problems which tormented him since in 2008.

He suffers from a condition called atrial flutter. This means that the pulse can rush and become irregular at maximum effort during which Peters heart has hit close to 300 beats per minute, and it has happened that he passed out.

Atrial flutter can be treated by a relatively simple procedure, but Peter has gone through a difficult process. After a few years of problems and lots of tests, he was told that he would not get a surgery. The doctors said that he could stop rowing and live a normal life.

- I think they could have been more honest with me from the start. As an elite athlete you do not have that many years since you can compete at the highest level. Now it felt like a lot of valuable time was lost in vain.

2009 Peter could nevertheless compete so successfully that the Swedish Rowing Federation appointed him "Rower of the Year". Then the heartproblems started accuring more and more frequent, stopping his progress. Peter was in a desperate stage when he summer of 2011 - finally - got the go-ahead for an operation which was carried out at a private hospital in Stockholm.

Two months after surgery, he managed to squeeze his way to a Bronze Medal at the World Rowing Coastal Championships in Italy. It was the first time in two years that he was able to do a race at a maximum effort.

The past few years have also been turbulent. But despite the fact that he had to deal with injuries and his mother's sudden death in spring 2013, he succeeded in August last year bringing in a World Championship Bronze Medal in his hometown, in Helsingborg.

He was in great form early this season, but hassles with his hip flexor, slowed him down during the summer. He bounced back, however, from the injury and could take aim to the World Rowing Coastal Championship. 

The Open Spanish Championships in the end of September would be a perfect rehearsal. Instead, the race became a crushing blow.

- After surgery, I had received small hints that something was wrong. But I did not want to admit it to myself. In Spain, however, it became obvious that the heart problems had come back. It felt strange from the start and after a while I was close to fainting.

After returning to Swedish soil got Peter blood thinning injection. The irregular pulse was corrected by defibrillation. The World Championship appeared to be out of reach. But thanks to a huge determination, Peter could not only rise from the hospital bed, but also conduct a series of successful training session before the Championship.

In the World Championship final, he made a tactically flawless effort. He controlled the race from the first buoy in the six-kilometer race.

- I'm extremely competitive, but actually not as focused on the results as my own performance which I want to be maximum, says Peter.

Now he looks forward.

- First step is to get a new operation. If I'm lucky, it can be done at the end of the year. I see positive about it. In 2015, I might give traditional rowing a real go again, but whatever my decision, I will not let go of coastal rowing. Traditional rowing and coastal rowing is a great combination.

Written by: Magnus Ransheim
magnus.ransheim@hd.se