The Olympic flame has been extinguished for one of history’s most unprecedented Olympic Games, and as the Olympic Rings were raised on the Eiffel Tower, athletes are shifting focus to renew our efforts and spirits towards Paris 2024. Tokyo is an Olympics to mark in history books, as nations and competitors reorganized to our best abilities in accommodating an extraordinary and controversial pandemic. Although regulations were strict in Japan to prevent athletes from interacting with the public, and we had to go through daily covid tests and tracking health conditions, wearing masks and staying in our “bubble,” we still experienced a very warm welcome from volunteers and an effusion of enthusiasm and well wishes from the Japanese public. These Olympics were truly an expression of freedom: a joining of international athletes support of an event showcasing the power of teamwork, consciousness, and the spirit of sportsmanship overcoming marked individual selfishness exhibited by public reactions to the pandemic.
Tom Duggan, the PRO of the Olympic race committee, summed up the Tokyo Olympic spirit in a thoughtful statement about the teamwork exhibited by organizers and athletes.
For the USA RS:X sailors, Pedro Pascual and I, teamwork brought us together and helped contribute to our Olympic experience. During the spring of 2021 and for the 2020 qualifying events, Pedro and I formed a partnership sharing our coach, Jaime Andres, from Pedro’s base of El Puerto de Santa Maria, Spain. In the months leading up to the Olympics, although we changed our coaching and training situation due to the location of differing boys and girls’ training camps and regattas, Pedro and I teamed up and shared extensively with our Cypriot training partners, including coaching, boats, and training in El Puerto (plus Denia, Spain, and Medemblik, Netherlands for the boys). Both of us did really amazing work, and we improved immensely in technique, strategy, and confidence.
The least-considered and most ill-supported American Olympic sailing class, USA RS:X sailors have long been at the bottom of the pile when it comes to allocation of US Sailing Team resources and effort. However, our grit, willpower, and determination in the lead-up to the Tokyo Olympics helped we underdog RS:Xers post some of the best overall results of the US Sailing Team, and the best overall windsurfing results since the days of medalist Mike Gebhardt.
Against expectations, Pedro Pascual posted a 9th against a very competitive men’s fleet, and I a 15th against fully funded, experienced, and correctly developed competitors, of which at least six or seven could have potentially won an Olympic medal. All of this was accomplished by our willingness to fight, to work hard outside the bounds of reasonableness, form alliances with other teams, and to invent rapid solutions for lack of funds and training in the Covid era.
I am particularly happy with my Olympic regatta due to overcoming the financial stress, knocks to my confidence, and adaptations I’ve faced over the past five years. All these problems descended on my psyche after a particularly difficult first day of racing, and I was left upset on the coach boat facing a tough choice. With the help of my coach, I realized I could relax into the last RS:X regatta and simply sail to have fun, knowing that we had prepared the best we could over a few short months, and that we were fully supported at the Olympic Games. The difficulties of 16 years of campaigning weren’t hanging over my head, and I was well-prepared – very physically fit, technically strong, and I had selected the best equipment I could.
During this critical moment, I could feel myself expand to accept the Olympic pressure, the pressure I’ve always had to prove myself, and all the focused preparation I put in before the Games. I expanded to acknowledge my strong abilities as a windsurfer and racer, and the unlimited capacity of my willpower, to always give more without fear.
The next day held my favorite, and well-prepared-for conditions. 12-15 knots of breeze with big swell meant that I could get into the flow, surf down waves, and give all I had on tough downwind legs. I finished the day confident and happy, and it set the tone for race after race for the rest of the regatta. I surpassed my expectations for the event, sailed powerfully and fast, and finished in front of a group of competitors that normally give me a hard time! It was an incredible reward to finish the last RS:X event in a state of happiness and flow, and it’s an experience I will remember for all my life.
I am extremely grateful for this experience and all my sponsors and supporters who helped get me to Tokyo. STS International TAAROA Hydrofoil LoftSails Fitness Plus Brest Starboard Windsurfing Clearwater Community Sailing Center North Beach Windsurfing MB-Boards