The Malta Independent 21 January 2019, Monday

From working in finance to representing Malta at the Commonwealth Games in Australia

Helena Grech Tuesday, 13 March 2018, 09:00 Last update: about 11 months ago

Andrew Cassar Torreggiani used to work in finance at a wealth management firm; he is now just weeks away from representing Malta in the Commonwealth games this April in Australia for the long-jump event. Throughout his life, Andrew has always engaged in athletics, starting with short-distance sprints, and excelling at the long jump.

As a boy in school, he often broke records and won competitions. Being an athlete was in his blood. In his late teens, his peers both in school and outside began deciding what career to choose to secure a stable future and Andrew began thinking what the future would hold for him.

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He always loved the training, the track and athletics, but surely this would not provide for him later on in life. Like his friends, he chose to attend sixth form and later completed a Bachelor of Science in banking and finance.

Andrew enjoyed the typical activities of a young adult in his late teens and early twenties. He went out regularly with friends, enjoyed parties, began a long-term relationship and even had his fair share of long-haul travelling experiences. All the while, some form of athletics training was always taking place, for it is something that has always formed part of his identity.

Last summer, Andrew competed in local competitions where, with normal training, he managed a respectable 7.17m in the long-jump event. While he was disqualified because his foot went barely over the line, some thoughts began creeping into Andrew’s head.

He began to question his potential to go all the way, considering the results he was achieving while maintaining a full-time job and regular training hours.

These thoughts would not leave Andrew alone, until finally, he decided to quit his career, drop everything, and go for professional training and competing.

He chose Loughborough University, one of the top sports facilities in Europe.

“Eight months ago, I decided it was time to give athletics a good shot. I dropped everything. I was working in finance; I quit, looked for the best place to train with the best facilities and in the end settled on Loughborough in the UK.

“It’s this place in the middle of nowhere, cut off from everything with a huge sports university and a little market.”

 

Five-hours a day of intense training

“For the past eight months I have been training for five hours a day. I was training in Malta part-time, for a maximum of two hours per day. I used to go to work, go to training, eat, sleep and repeat.

“In Loughborough I have a chance to wake up, make a good breakfast, go to yoga, Pilates, mobility sessions and a lot more.

The coaches are really good; I’m training with the England coach, who is going to be there in Australia with the England team.

“Three Maltese have qualified for the Commonwealth games in Australia, two long-jumpers and a sprinter.

Asked about his training regiment, Andrew said they work in “blocks”.

“The UK coach has quite a unique philosophy. He will load us for about two months to the extent that after training we can’t even walk. Slowly but surely, these sessions get quicker and faster. For example, from months before the competition, instead of doing 20 by 200m runs, closer to the competition we do 80-60m more quickly. The idea is to progress to more intensive and explosive bursts during my training.

“Even in the gym it’s the same thing; at the beginning of the year we lift heavy weights more slowly, and as the competition draws near, lighter weights more quickly. The idea is to replicate the movement your body makes when doing the jumps.”

In addition to the intense training regime, Andrew has also been placed on a very strict, monotonous diet.

“I basically eat the same thing every day. It is so strict. Breakfast is porridge with raspberries, blueberries and mulberries, some nuts and chia seeds.

“In the afternoon I enjoy a ‘smoothie’ with kiwi, pineapple and other things that are good for you. In the evening it’s chicken and rice.”

With a pained yet comical look on his face, Andrew stressed that this is what he has been eating every single day, and what he will continue to eat in the near future.

Asked about whether he has received a hard time from his coaches for deviating from the monotonous diet, Andrew quickly replied in the negative, adding that their philosophy is to make the athletes feel “bad about it”, like the archetypal disappointed mother.

“If he catches me doing something he just gives that disappointed look and says ‘it’s your career man.’ He is essentially the stereotypical disappointed mummy. It works. He plays the role perfectly.”

While sticking to the same diet may seem impossible to many, even for a short period of time, Andrew has been on this diet for the past six months and even managed to maintain it while visiting Malta for a short break.

Just one month ago, Andrew jumped an impressive 7.54m at the pre-season competition which saw him qualify and be chosen for the Commonwealth games in Australia this coming April.

Andrew innocently described how his celebration for qualifying consisted of pizza and doughnuts.

 

Competing against childhood idols

Not many people get the opportunity to meet their idols in real life. Andrew has gone from sitting in the audience watching the men and women who inspire him, to competing alongside them.

“I feel nervous as I will be competing against people I have looked up to my entire life. I had booked tickets to watch the world indoor championships. It is a bit mad because I will be watching them perform at these games, and a few weeks later I will be competing against them.”

Andrew remarked that the feeling which comes about from competing in high-intensity games, with big audiences and big coverage, pushes athletes to up their game mentally and physically.

 

Winter championships

He explained that after jumping 7.54m at the pre-season competition and qualifying, he was pushed to compete in the winter championships in order to test his consistency.

“My friend and I had jumped 7.41m and 7.54m respectively, which are massive. There haven’t been jumps that big in Malta for a few years now. So basically they said ‘listen you need to compete next weekend in the winter championships and test the consistency'. We did that and I came first at 7.24m and my friend came second so that was fantastic.”

 

Trials and tribulations

Andrew explained that the hardest part of the whole process has been maintaining his mental stamina, the strength to keep going despite how hard it gets, and how much the sacrifices begin to take their toll.

“Last December I had my first competition and had been training really hard. I jumped 5.90m, which is a distance I used to jump when I was 14 years old. I panicked and asked myself whether I was getting too old for this. Eventually, I gathered my thoughts and calmed down. Just weeks ago, I jumped 7.54 so it just goes to show...

“It’s all part of the tapering of the training programme, lifting lighter weights more quickly. Your legs just change. There is a huge science behind it.

“It’s hard. Mentally, it’s hard to go away from the path that everybody else takes. One thing I will say however is that if you think you are going to regret not taking the plunge years down the line, then you have to do it. The tougher it gets, the more mentally strong you must be.”

Long-term plan

Andrew plans to take a two-week rest period after the Commonwealth games, which includes some light runs. He calls this “active recovery”.

Following this, intense training will reconvene to prepare him for the summer Mediterranean games, if he is chosen.

“My long-term goal is to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. That means in 2019 I will be fully absorbed in my raining. From now until then, I commit myself to complete dedication, which is my only option if I want to see results at a professional level.

“None of this is easy; I dropped everything to follow my dream. I am not earning any money, which is scary, but I know that when I grow older, I would be filled with regret if I never at least tried as I am doing now. I knew it would haunt me forever.

As part of his efforts to qualify for Tokyo, Andrew said the Malta record for the adult long jump is also in his sights.

Support systems

Andrew is hopeful that his family will be present at the Australia games in April. He excitedly described how last year, he went trekking with his friends who made their way to Australia. They are still living there and will be attending the competition to show their support. Andrew said that nine friends living in Australia will all be shouting from the bleachers.

His girlfriend Martina may also make an appearance; Andrew says she has been a “huge pillar of support from the get go”.

You may follow Andrew's journey via instagram on @Andrewct 

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