Imagine this. You’re from Barbados and just graduated from high school. You decide to “take it easy for the summer” by taking a job for a month as a sailing instructor in Bermuda. Sounds pretty good, eh? It gets better. You’ll be assisting a well-respected international sailing coach and training part time with him.
It gets better. You turn 18 and catch a flight to Bermuda and as soon as the plane hits the tarmac, one of your best friends your calls and says “CONGRATULATIONS!!!” He doesn’t say, “Happy Birthday!” he says “CONGRATULATIONS!”
“Oh, you don’t know? You should call your father, right away!” Click.
Flabbergasted, 18-year old Gregory Douglas called home. The news he received has not only made his father and family happy, it has thrilled an entire country.
Greg Douglas is going to the Olympics. The 18-year old did not sail in the first Olympic qualifier, the 2007 ISAF Sailing World Championships, and was 19th in the Laser Youth Worlds in Kingston, Ontario, Canada last year. During the 2007-08 Christmas break, Douglas flew to Australia to compete in the 2008 Laser World Championships.
When asked about how well he did at the 2008 Laser World Championships, Douglas said, “I don’t know. Bad. I was in the bronze fleet.”
Greg never expected that he would ever get an invitation to the Olympics, at least not a little over a month before the Opening Ceremonies.
“I’m excited, but I’m completely overwhelmed,” said the young adult who is likely to be the youngest sailor in the Olympics and one of only two Caribbean basin sailors to earn the distinction of being among 400 sailors in the world to qualify for the 2008 Olympics in sailing.
“It has all come on so quickly, I don’t know what I’m doing,” said the 6’3”, 182-pound sailor. “My father is filling out all of the forms. My commitment here ends at the end of July, so I guess I’ll go home and then go to China.”
When asked if his anyone in his family was going to go to Qingdao, China (the Olympic sailing venue), Douglas said, “I don’t know. I think my mom is going to go to the Optimist North Americans with my sister.”
Three days after landing in Bermuda, Douglas was still shell shocked. His life changed dramatically from the time it took to fly from Barbados to Bermuda and it will change in more ways than he can ever imagine every day this summer.
While he, his family and Barbados prepare for his Olympic appearance, Douglas will be in the company of Luis Chiapparro, the coach who suggested that he apply for a wild card spot. Chiapparo said of Douglas, “He’s good and he is always very calm. This experience will put him in really good shape for future Olympics. I have no doubt that he will qualify on his own, without the wildcard berth, in the future.”
Lynn Fitzpatrick’s articles on sailing appear regularly in international publications including AARP The Magazine and Cruising World. She has been a highly competitive Snipe sailor and is the 2008 Sports Information Specialist for sailing at the 2008 Olympics.