It has nothing to do with their age, physical fitness or personality. Every professional sportsperson lives for and works towards the same dream: competing in the Olympics. Natalia de Miguel is no exception; not only is she the only member of the Spanish rowing team to come from Malaga, but she is also the only woman with a scholarship to the High Performance Centre at La Cartuja, in Seville. This is one of only two specialist centres in rowing and canoeing in Spain; the other is in Banyoles, in Catalonia.
Natalia, who used to row for the Real Club Mediterráneo and is now with the Labradores club in Seville, is in her first year at the centre, and competing as a professional for the first time. She has already earned her first international award, a bronze medal at the last Mediterranean Games.
There is no space in her agenda for holidays or leisure; she has known since she was very young what it means to decline invitations to go out with friends because she has to train and, of course, keep up with her studies. She moved to Seville four years ago to study, and to train on the Guadalquivir. That's where she met her boyfriend.
"My partner, Jaime Canalejo, is also a international rower, and he almost made it to the last Olympics. He motivated me to keep training and become professional, to become part of the team and not just compete with the club," she says. And so she did. She has now become one of the best in Spain in the lightweight category (under 59 kilos).
For Natalia, the season never comes to an end, but that doesn't matter to her because she knows exactly what she wants.
"I first thought about preparing for the Olympics last year. The World Championships next year will be vital if we are to qualify, but I am training hard. I am doing 1,100 minutes a week now," she explains.
Study, training and work
That's about 18 hours, and it's sometimes more. She trains three times a day, and will have to train more intensively as time progresses. This will probably mean she loses some income, because she also teaches rowing to children at the club.
"They are cutting back on sport these days. I have to work because I'm 22 and can't be dependent on my parents. This year, at least, I live at the centre and my meals are provided, but nobody has ever given me a financial grant," she says. "Many of us are looking for sponsors, because it is very hard to live like this."
She's not discouraged by the lack of support, and is looking forward to her next challenge: qualifying for the World Championships in Bulgaria in September. They will not count towards Tokyo 2020, but next year's will as the seven best boats will go through.
There's not much time, and Natalia knows she has a difficult task ahead of her, but she is determined to let nothing stand in her way as she works hard and dreams of standing on the podium wearing a medal in the Olympic Games.