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Luke Muller: Going for it

Published on January 18th, 2020

The US Sailing Program was saved at the Rio 2016 Olympics when Caleb Paine sniffed out a shift off the start line of the Finn Medal Race, banging the right side for a huge lead he would not surrender, vaulting him to the podium for a bronze medal.

Memories of the Americans failing to deliver at London 2012 were forgotten, and the view cleared for continued success at Tokyo 2020. However, with six months remaining before the Olympics, it is 24-year old Luke Muller who is grabbing the spotlight as the nation’s leading Finn representative.

Scuttlebutt editor Craig Leweck checks in with Luke for an update:

Let’s back-up… what gave you the confidence to be an “Olympic Campaigner”?

Luke Muller

I am very lucky that I was raised in an environment where the Olympics were not a foreign concept. I grew up down the street from Mike Gebhardt, the legendary windsurfer and two-time medalist, and when I was 6 months old my parents brought me to the Atlanta 1996 Games to cheer him on. I still have the t-shirt.

As a Laser sailor, I had the privilege of training with and being coached by a few Olympians; Siblings Paige and Zach Railey, and Anna Tunnicliffe, to name a few. It wasn’t until the summer before college in 2014 that I gained the confidence to consider the Olympics a dream I could achieve. I owe it to my coaches at the time for giving me that little nudge to go for it.

When did you begin sailing the Finn?

The Finn was a natural progression for me due to my size. The summer before college I was too heavy for the Laser and that’s when I knew I had to make the jump. The Finn has produced some amazing sailors and I have really enjoyed the challenge.

Are you Finn-sized?

Yes, you should see my weekly grocery bill!

You have taken leave from Stanford University. Explain how that decision transpired.

By my Junior year, I had reached a plateau in my progress as a Finn sailor. Instead of splitting my time and energy between two demanding pursuits, I made the decision to focus all of my energy on sailing. I was able to complete everything necessary for my Aeronautics minor before I left, and I am looking forward to focusing on my senior History thesis when I return.

Caleb Paine would like another bite of the apple. How has it been training with him?

We are two imperfect humans that want what only one of us can have, so that brings obvious complications but we try our best. Our coach, Luther Carpenter, does a great job of encouraging us to not get distracted by the small stuff and focus on the larger mission of getting an American on the podium.

You entered this quad with the intent of dislodging the only Olympic medalist the USA has had since 2008. Seems ballsy… why take the risk?

I guess I’ve never thought about it like that. My mindset has been that the Olympic Classes are a great place to become a better sailor and the Finn suited my body-type. A lesson I learned from some successful sailors is that although the Olympic Games is an amazing event, there is a lot more to Olympic Class sailing than just one event every four years. Yes, I would love to go and be the representative for our country, but if I don’t qualify, that doesn’t make all these years a waste. I have become so much more than a decent Finn sailor over the past few years.

You are leading the national qualification system to represent the USA in Tokyo. What does this status mean to you?

I think it would be unwise for me to get caught up in the hype before the trials are over. I am grateful that I had a good regatta at the 2019 Class Worlds but the trials are far from a done deal. My job is to focus on what is within my control and give it my best effort.

Did the likelihood of the Finn no longer being Olympic equipment after 2020 impact your program this quad? Create more of a sense of urgency?

I think the situation has made me value every day on the water that much more. I am bothered most by the idea that there are young Olympic-class sailors that don’t have the option of going into the Finn when they are too heavy like I was. That’s a real shame. The US program could have benefited a lot from young talent pushing us to be better.

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