Isabella Bertold sails toward a Canadian first

Published on June 16th, 2014

(June 16, 2014) – More stringent concussion protocols have taken the decision on whether to return to the game out of the hands of most professional athletes. But sailor Isabella Bertold never faced a detailed code of procedure after being smacked in the back of the head by another’s boat’s boom in Miami just before the final Canadian team qualifier for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Sail Canada, she said, didn’t even have a team doctor.

Bertold, who sails out of the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club, was leading the trials and in a good position to represent Canada in the women’s laser radial class.

“The general doctors in the hospital in Miami, they advise you to take it easy,” she told The Sun. “I just rolled my eyes and was like, whatever. Without having a team doctor, the decision falls on you.

“I had to make the call myself and I decided to still race. I was thinking I’d put so much in to get to this point, I had a little bit of a buffer — we’ll just see how this goes. I didn’t really appreciate how much the concussion — and it was a bad one — would affect me. It was just a disaster of an event. It took me pretty much the whole rest of the season to get over it.”

The 23-year-old said not qualifying for London was “the best thing that could have happened to my sailing career.”

Two years later, and despite being plagued at times by a series of injuries as a result of a bike crash in Italy in May of last year, she is a threat to become the first Canadian woman to win an Olympic sailing medal at Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

It is a goal the aspiring lawyer isn’t afraid to state publicly. It’s not added pressure, she said, if you truly believe in yourself and your ability. Only two Canadian women have ever won a world championship medal in the 29-year history of the laser radial class — gold by Kelly Hand in 1999 and bronze by Carolle Spooner in 1983. Bertold said with unabashed conviction that “I plan to change that in September.”

Had she somehow qualified for London, she said, winning the lottery would have been more realistic than winning a medal there.

“I didn’t accomplish something then that I wanted,” she said, “but I still love the sport. It’s easy to lose perspective on that. I started checking boxes on why I’m doing it. I started this young (at age five), but I still enjoy it.” – Vancouver Sun, read on

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