OLYMPICS: Reineke plots grueling course

Published on July 8th, 2013

In ESPNw, the digital segment of ESPN focused on women athletics, 19 year old American Erika Reineke gets recognized for her steep climb to the top of her sport

The sunny little girl didn’t want to admit she was afraid of the wind and the waves and being alone on the water, at 8 years old in a boat just under eight feet long called an Optimist. Erika Reineke cried and begged and used every creative excuse she could summon to avoid going to her weekend sailing lessons at the Lauderdale Yacht Club in her hometown of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Her mother, Sharon, successfully bribed Erika with chocolate chip cookies. Then Erika had that one life-changing day when she made the breeze work for her, and felt the accompanying happy jolt that comes with “that feeling of being better than your peers,” as she put it.

That is how a world-class sailing career was launched. And it has been a sweet one so far.

At 19, Erika Reineke is one of the most promising young sailors in the world, having already won youth and under-21 world championships and a collegiate title as a Boston College freshman last fall, all in the Laser Radial class. She was a finalist for college sailor of the year.

The Laser Radial also is the equipment for the women’s Olympic event, which was contested in the past two Summer Games and is on the slate again for Rio 2016, a logical target for Reineke. But she has plotted a course that isn’t the shortest from A to B for the next three years.

Reineke chose Boston College partly because of its top-notch sailing program, but also because she’s an ardent student who wanted a challenging academic menu. She is leaning toward a major in environmental sciences and intends to stay in school full-time rather than take a hiatus for an Olympic campaign. Those who know her best say that will be difficult, but it would be a mistake to doubt her.

Boston College head sailing coach Greg Wilkinson said Reineke strives for balance in her life as much as she does on the water, aiming to push right to the edge of her abilities without capsizing. She was an integral part of the team’s community service program, which included school visits and work at a local food bank, and has immersed herself in the group ethos.

“She loves what she’s doing, and she has a healthy fear of that going away,” Wilkinson said. “That might be more important to her than winning.” – Read on

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