Dreams of five young Caribbean sailors came true this summer when they competed in the Summer Olympics. Each brought back a wealth of experience, unforgettable memories and a keen desire to train for 2016.
Sailing in the Olympics was like no other regatta, explains St. Thomas’ Cy Thompson, who finished 25th in the Laser Class. “You definitely want to come into the event thinking that it’s just another regatta, but with the media, security and all, you feel like a celebrity.”
Trinidad & Tobago’s Andrew Lewis discovered that the Olympics were both awesome and overwhelming. “To think that all of my efforts were to achieve this milestone, and now I was finally here,” says Lewis, who ended 37th in Lasers.
Even though St. John, USVI’s Mayumi ‘Mimi’ Roller, who finished 40th in Laser Radials, wanted to compete at the Olympics ever since her Opti days, she found actually being in Weymouth and facing the world’s best, surreal. “The racing was by far the toughest I have ever partaken in. Everyone was giving it their all and there wasn’t any forgiving moments of any race.”
Caribbean training was a help to St. Lucia’s Beth Lygoe, who finished 37th in Laser Radials. “We get the variety of conditions in St Lucia, just like in Weymouth (flat water and gusty winds through to big waves and steady winds). The only major difference was the colder water and tides.”
All the sailors experienced ‘top of the world’ moments. The USVI’s Roller’s came in the second race of the third day. “The wind lightened up a bit and was pretty shifty, which I like,” she explains. “I started in 5th place, but after capsizing on the second downwind, and then a yellow flag which caused me do a 720, I dropped to 22nd place. That was still good, but it felt really nice being in the top of the fleet and maintaining that position for as long as I did.”
Curacao’s Philipine van Aanholt, who ended 36th in Laser Radials, will spend the next two years finishing a bachelor degree in business, and then she says, “I’ll work on staying fit, so when I start again I can give it my all in the Caribbean-Central American Games, the Pan-American Games and hopefully the Olympic Games again.”
The USVI’s Thompson says there are a few match racing events that he will do with Taylor Canfield. “My team, Minor Threat, will try to defend their Team Racing National Championship, and obviously I’ll do any big boats stuff that I can get on without compromising my four-year Laser campaign for Rio.”
Trinidad & Tobago’s Lewis is planning for a podium finish in 2016. In addition, he says, “I want to help T&T to have a bigger contingent of sailors at the next Games so I will be working towards grooming more talent in the hope that they can qualify.”
Lastly, what are words of wisdom these Olympians can share with other Caribbean junior sailors?
“Keep training, make sure you find a good training partner, and do a lot of events,” recommends Curacao’s van Aanholt. “Get fit, sailing alone is not enough (for Laser sailors); go to the gym and workout! Think about the mental part as well. How do you focus the best, what motivates you?”
The USVI’s Roller adds, “Never give up. My journey to the Games was definitely filled with a lot of ups and downs. But in the end, just pushing through, and keeping a positive attitude along the way, definitely pays off. Also, I don’t know if this applies to all sports, but I know it helped me to write down my thoughts about my training every day. It really helped me to focus on what I felt I was doing right, what I was doing wrong, and how I could improve.”
Finally, says Trinidad & Tobago’s Lewis. “Believe in yourself and never give up. I was told on many occasions that I will not make it. That I am too small and that I should not be there. If you have a dream, make a plan, surround yourself with the right people and go for it. Once you have that self-belief and stay positive, then anything is possible.”
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.