There were 62 countries and territories represented at the 2008 Olympic Sailing Regatta in Qingdao, China. Some teams showed up with a full complement of 18 competitors, coaches, physiotherapists, sports psychologists, rules consultants, federation representatives and attaches—while lone sailors represented other countries.
Alejandro Foglia was the only Uruguayan sailor to qualify for the Olympics—and he hired his old acquaintance Luis Chiaparro to accompany him to Qingdao.
Meanwhile, the start of the summer of 2008 brought fantastic news to certain sailors who had missed out on qualifying for the Olympics during the 2007 and the 2008 World Championships in their classes. Some were granted wildcard invitations to the Olympics. Thomas Barrows and Gregory Douglas were among them.
Greg Douglas (Barbados) and Thomas Barrows III (St. Thomas, USVI) were the sole representatives of their countries at the 2008 Olympic Sailing Regatta. As first-time Olympians, Douglas and Barrows could have arrived in Qingdao and been overwhelmed by the foreign city, life in the Olympic Village and the sheer hype of the Olympics, but they had a secret weapon: their coach, Luis Chiaparro.
Chiaparro, a native of Uruguay, has been a sailing coach in Bermuda and has been coaching junior sailors from all over the world. He has seen some of his Opti kids, such as Barrows whom he first coached ten years ago, grow up and excel in other boats.
Douglas only learned of his acceptance within minutes of his arrival in Bermuda to train with Chiaparro and be a junior sailing coach alongside him for a month. While Peter Douglas, Greg’s father, filled out the paperwork and made arrangements to accompany his son to the Olympics, Chiaparro made a proposal to Alejandro Foglia.
Would Foglia consider sharing Chiaparro with Douglas and Barrows during the Olympics? Foglia jumped at the proposal. The three young men would have the benefit of a seasoned coach to help them navigate the excitement of the Olympics and the demands of such a high profile regatta.
“It’s good to have others to sail with and to share opinions with. We can test different sides of the course and the starting line much more efficiently with three,” said Foglia during the Preliminary Series of the Olympic Regatta.
The three from different countries were comforted to hear Chiaparro belt out his classic phrases during practice, “Bamo Arriba!” and “Go fast like a fart.” The friends also banded together during meals and other activities in Qingdao and during their visit to Beijing for the Opening Ceremony.
Rather than being on their own at their first Olympics Foglia, Douglas and Barrows maximized their Olympic development opportunity. With one Olympics under their belts, they will be much better prepared for Weymouth 2012 than most others their age.
Pleased with the experience, Barrows said, “This is the most fun sailing you can do. Even if you are in last, you’re close to the best Laser sailors in the world.”