Saturday, February 9, 2013

Tough Choices

Being subject to changing circumstance is a normal part of the campaign trail for any aspiring Olympic sailor. The uncertainty of the RS:X class being put back in the Olympics, and the new (and welcomed) change in the sailing team leadership created uncertainty in the state of my post-Olympic campaign.  Especially in the first year of a new quadrennial, funding is critical but difficult to secure; this is the situation for me this winter.  After five years of support, my main sponsor has decided not to renew for my Rio campaign.

While waiting for the ISAF decision on either the RS:X windsurfer or kiteboarding for Rio, I was given a trip to Australia to train in a prime location, Brisbane, where Southern Hemisphere summer weather brings sun, heat, and windy conditions.  It was a great offer and I took it, arriving in Brisbane in November.  In November and December, I trained full time with Jo Sterling, an Australian sailor, and top Italian sailor Flavia Tartaglini in Brisbane and Sydney.  I tried to implement this winter plan without knowing what my funding would be; I tried to forge ahead by doing what I thought I should do to make the most of my training time in Australia without knowing exactly would happen to me this winter.

With a last minute decision to include the RS:X in the Miami OCR World Cup, the sole event to qualify for the 2013 US Sailing team, I had a tough choice to make about how to get the most value from my very limited resources.  Attending the Miami Olympic Classes Regatta was an opportunity to gain a spot on the US Sailing Team, but I would lose valuable training and development time, not to mention exhausting my funds.  The stresses of travel and a 14-hour time change on short notice versus the opportunity for me to improve my overall speed and technique while working with a familiar coach was how I saw the choice. For me, staying in Australia was the better option.  Under the new US Sailing leadership, I, and any other US athlete, still have the same opportunity to earn funding and use American coaching resources - a new attitude of inclusiveness I really appreciate.  But without any significant funding available this year, and our international results determining our 2014 funding, I am targeting top finishes in Europe as my goal this year.  My current training camp here in Brisbane is preparing me for the European season.

After three and a half months of training in the consistent Brisbane sea breeze, and 10 days more to go until our coach returns to Poland, I can say that I am really happy with the way the training is going.  With two long sessions daily, we have plenty of opportunity to develop speed in all conditions, and I've had the chance to perfect my board handling.  Adding in some racing has also been a great opportunity to develop focus, consistency, and the mental side of the sport.  The training has been great preparation and a confidence-builder for the upcoming European season, and I'm looking forward to seeing how well I will race this spring.  My greatest challenge now is again growing my support base in order to properly campaign.  I've got a great plan in place but it takes the proper resources to make it happen. All I know is that competing in this sport at an Olympic level will never be easy.  I've come to a point where I know for certain I have a chance to make a top finish at the next Olympics.  It's just a matter of putting myself there and once again, I'll give it my all.