Sunday, July 13, 2008

Polish Preparation for the Olympic Games

I’m a commuter. I never expected to drive 45 minutes one way to work, nor did I expect to do it in Polish traffic. However, it’s what I’ve been doing every day for the past week in order to train in Puck with the girls on the Polish Olympic team, as they finalize the preparation of their top sailor, Zofia Klepacka, for the Olympic Games. Zofia is one of the top-ranked Olympic-class windsurfer women in the world, and has a very good chance of medaling in Qingdao.

It’s been interesting to see how the Olympic team’s coach is working with Zofia. There really isn’t too much difference in how he is running the training camp as far as what we have been doing on the water, except that most of his focus is on her. He’s been utilizing the rest of us (there are usually four sailors total) as her sparring partners. For example, since Zofia is very fast, she is often sailing in the front of our small fleet and winning races. He’ll pull her out of the race at the windward mark and make her start behind the rest of us. Yesterday the coach also ran some pumping intervals for her on a short course, in which one of us started five seconds ahead of her, to make her work hard to catch up. Three of us went in turn, and then the exercise was repeated. In addition, we have only been doing one session on the water instead of the normal two, so we aren’t quite as tired as normal. After all, the Games are only a few weeks off now. The Polish sailors will depart sometime around the 25th of July.

On another interesting note, not only is Zofia working hard with her coach, she is also doing some PR work with her sponsor. The other day she had a photo shoot with her sponsor that became really involved. The photographers set up a small studio inside the meeting room at the Puck sailing club. A lady was on-site to do Zofia’s hair and makeup (as she is very laid-back, it is funny to see her made up!), and Zofia was walking around in her sponsor’s logos all day. She also had some on-the-water shooting as well, and an interview on the beach.

The Polish Olympic team has some of the fastest girls in the world and it is really good for me to sail with them. My boardspeed is improving and I’m still refining technique, so it is good for me to observe what they are doing. Most importantly, it is sharpening my overall tactical racing skills. To get around the course the fastest, it is important to make the least amount of mistakes. These girls minimize their mistakes, so if I do something that doesn’t work, I immediately know it. However, I am sailing much better than last year and I am now learning tactics really fast. Racing well isn’t as complicated as I once thought. I am improving quickly this summer and am starting to feel really good about my sailing. On another note, I am also enjoying seeing what is happening in this professional sailing program in preparation the Olympic Games, and it’s good to feel that I am playing some small role in it.

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