Shirley’s look towards 2024

Published on July 25th, 2020

Two-time gold medalist Shirley Robertson has floated the idea of a return to competitive Olympic sailing. The 52-year-old Scot has concentrated on broadcasting since her second Yngling class triumph at the 2004 Games in Athens.

But she has started competing in the double-handed class, which will be a new sport at the 2024 event in Paris. “You need sponsors and all that stuff, but I’m really enjoying it,” Robertson told BBC Radio Scotland. “There’s still life in the old dog yet. It’s different, it’s offshore and you sail through the night.”

Robertson was speaking while sailing 20 miles off the Brittany Coast on what should have been the opening day of the Tokyo Olympics. “It is great to be back on the water, but it is a little bit of a disappointing day,” she admitted. “It’s a sad day for Olympic sport.

“Today would have been the opening ceremony of the Olympics and I would have been there covering the sailing. For any sports broadcaster, the Olympics is a real highlight.”

Robertson suggested that many current athletes will be struggling to refocus on competing at the rearranged Tokyo event in a year’s time. “Spare a thought for all those athletes that are sitting at home and, for many, it would have been their time,” she said.

“In sailing, you have a bit of longevity, but in other sports you don’t. It would have been this year or maybe never. The date of the Olympics is like the orange beacon in your calendar. For often more than four years, you have been working towards this day – for many, a decade.

“Athletes are all about dates and peaking and events in the calendar. Many are struggling to keep their mojo and keep that level of intensity they would have had this year.”

While sailing back to her home in Isle of Wight with co-skipper Henry Bomby, Robertson said it was a privilege to interview at recent Olympics athletes who have “this incredible single minded pursuit of excellence. Now I don’t do it, I miss that – to have that single focus every day is pretty special,” she said.

Robertson revealed that she feels “born again” after taking up open-water swimming and plans on swimming the River Solent this summer. “I used to be scared of getting into the water, but every day I’ve just got better and better,” she added. “I’ve just managed to find a bit of peace in the water and I love it.”


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