DRD4 – Italy’s U23 Men’s team

2011 YWRC - Sprint

Adventure is in our genes. What is it that makes us  love being on the edge, pushing ourselves to our limits, to our extremes? DRD4 is a gene which detects dopamine in our brains and that chemical is associated with the feeling of reward. But DRD4 has a variant in the -521 C/T polymorphism.

Those with this variant tend to be sensation seekers and this has a major impact on our choice of the sports we do and this makes us somehow addicted to the feeling and so we want more dopamine. Nowadays, it is proven that extreme athletes have a greater developed DRD4-gene compared to “ordinary” people who don’t seek extreme sports.

Podium and medals
Podium and medals

DRD4 is an interesting name and is the best possible way to describe a team of young Italian boys, lovers of wild water, who slowly pave their path on the world rafting scene, and whose achievements have put Italy on the WRC podium. This U23 men’s crew are made up of Daniel Klotzner, Matthias Deutsch, Luca Dapra, Patrich Agostini, Alexander Zanella, Giorgio ‘Agostino with Coach Stefano Bellin, Luca Cardinali and Thomas Waldner.They have united their forces to promote rafting in the country, and a team are present Italy in the best way possible at the competitions. As for many others, their start was a little complicated, but they loved rafting as a sport and so found a way to deal with it and to promote it. Now they present club DRD4.

“It was the year 2011 when our story began.””Explains Daniel Klotzner to us  – ““We were kayakers and at training our coach told us: “If you start rafting and train hard you have a chance to go to the World Championship in Costa Rica”. So we thought – let’s create a team and try it! We were part of the local kayak-club and in 2011 we started with rafting but the majority was against this. They said we can’t practice rafting in the kayak-club (we can’t use the club-van for training…) and so at the beginning we, a group of friends, founded a team. At the end we were good enough and could participate at WRC 2011. Costa Rica was a great experience for us and we enjoyed the scene (sport, people…) and so we got on with our new motivation. Since then we have enjoyed the sport and have had a lot of fun. In 2012 we competed successfully at the R4 WRC in Czech Republic and ended up with 4 medals. This year we transformed the team into a club so that we can organize official races. The idea behind DRD4 is to share our best moments with our friends and everyone who likes our sport. And especially inspire the persons who don’t know our sport.”

We can say that this team now has plenty of WRC experience. What are your impressions from this WRC  in New Zealand?

New Zealand
New Zealand

“It was an awesome time in a beautiful location with great rivers, great atmosphere amongst athletes and  great organization. The level every year increases and it’s harder to get a podium place. So you have to be really prepared and be at your best. It’s a hard fight against the other competitors but at the end, out of the river, you have fun together. It doesn’t matter how well your English is, there is always or almost always a way to understand each other and to communicate with other nationalities.”

You have medals from the H2H and Downriver – how did everything go?

Medals in Costa Rica
Medals in Costa Rica

“At the beginning we had some problems because we arrived only one day before the first race and we had only one day to train with our full team. We live in different places in Italy and we had never trained before like this compilation at the WRC. So the first race, the sprint, wasn’t as good. The H2H was much better and we ended up with the second place. In slalom we had some problems with the teamwork but we were quite lucky with our run. And at the last competition, the downriver, it wasn’t easy to get the right line always but we still managed to get 3rd.”

We all know how beautiful New Zealand is, but what was your greatest impression that you will bring back to Italy?

“It’s one of the most beautiful countries we have ever been to, perhaps the most beautiful! New Zealand has an exceptional and unique nature with rivers and huge areas free of buildings and humans. Every descent with different slides and drops such fun that you want it to never end. Particularly the Okere/Kaituna was really a dream.”

What does getting a medal mean for your team?

“A medal is always something special; it’s a symbol of success. The more you train and invest time, a whole year for one competition, the more beautiful it is when you get a medal. It’s a satisfaction for yourself because you have seen it was worth it and you get a new motivation to go on.”

New Zealand Slalom
New Zealand Slalom

Will we see you in Brazil on R4?

“We hope so, but it’s not so easy for our federation to get enough money. There are too many competitions in the same year, because before Brazil is the EC in Bosnia and Slovakia. If there is a possibility to get there we will compete!  In Bosnia unfortunately we can’t participate because some of us have an important kayak race. But for Slovakia we will get in top form and hope for some successful races. For this it’s important to train more slalom, the artificial canal is surly not so easy.” And it’s true. Artificial channels are always a challenge. Čunovo in Slovakia is technically very demanding and it will be a challenge for all. We regret that we will not see them in Bosnia on the beautiful Vrbas river.

Do you have any sponsors you’d like to thank?

“Yes! Exo Kayak, Birra del Bosco, La Ola Lienz, Mormaii Eyewear “

One of the pleasant surprises of the last two world championships is the Italians who are increasingly investing in the U19 and U23 generations. DRD4 started with WRC Costa Rica ’11 then WRC Ceska ’12, WRC New Zealand ’13, and we hope to see them at the WRC Brazil ’14. They are a great example and motivation for other young Italians to try the sport. In addition to their success, their love for all sports that they can do in the mountains and rivers, these young Italians are true polyglot. Besides Italian, because they live close to Austria and Switzerland, they also speak German and participation on the world stage improves their English. We congratulate them on the success that they have achieved so far, and think Brazil next year is a good place to start learning Portuguese. ;)


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Article by Nada