Early Focus Critical to Improve Olympic Success

Published on September 5th, 2015

The United States has won more gold and overall medals than any other country in the Summer Olympic Games. When you are an American, you just expect to hear your national anthem at the Olympics.

The US Sailing Team were consistent contributors to the country’s medal total, having won more sailing medals than any other country, accumulating at least two medals at every Games they competed in since 1948.

But then at the 2012 Olympic Games, it all stopped. The US Sailing Team was kept off the podium.

“American Olympic funding and infrastructure was for so long well supported by yacht clubs and local campaigns,” remarked 2008 US Olympian Andrew Campbell. “But as the rest of the world stepped up their efforts and professionalism, our approach was left in the dust.”

Campbell, who was 2002 ISAF Youth World Champion and 2006 College Sailor of the Year, contends the talent exists in the US to make Olympic champions.

“Young sailors from the US are as good as any nation’s talent until age 18, which is when the vast majority of our top talent leave Olympic-type classes and international competition for College Sailing,” submits Campbell. “The key message is to understand that College Sailing provides some, but only a limited handful, of the massive number of skills necessary to compete at the top of Olympic sailing.”

Dave Ullman, coach for the US Women’s 470 team Annie Haeger and Briana Provancha that claimed gold at the 2015 Rio Olympic Test Event, agrees that the US Sailing Team will improve only when sailors get on the path early.

“Olympic medals are earned through tremendous efforts spanning years and in some cases decades,” contends Ullman. “If a sailor is serious about pursuing an Olympic career in sailing they must spend a lot of time sailing in the boat and dedicate themselves to it. More than anything, don’t put in a half-hearted effort, and be ready to commit to partake in at least two Olympic cycles (quads).”

Campbell agrees that success is best achieved when the focus begins early.

“An Olympic campaign is not a 4-year process. It starts with skill development in Olympic classes 8 to 12 years ahead of expected goals. Many 15-16 year old sailors out there are well along that path and maybe don’t realize it yet! We have to support our sailors by building awareness and providing access to the necessary skills and potential pathways to success in Olympic classes.”

Long story short, the US Sailing Team needs sailors that already have a lot of tools in their toolbox when commencing their Olympic campaign, and not just starting to gather them.

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