Paris 2024: Eye on the prize

Published on August 31st, 2020

Sarah Newberry and David Liebenberg had their sights on the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, and despite finishing second among the USA Nacra 17 teams in the selection process, they remain focused on getting to the Olympic Games.

Due to the Tokyo postponement to 2021, they can begin their second quad for Paris 2024 alongside the Tokyo team, propelling both forward toward the podium. Here’s an update from the Sarah and David:

Hope you are doing well, and that you’ve stayed safe and healthy during this time. 2020 has been a wild ride so far! Did you know that we were the top American Nacra 17 Team at the 2020 World Championship, finishing 14th overall?

Since that event in February, so much has changed in the world. Our team spent six months apart after the World Championship. We worried for our fellow Americans, dreamed about being on the water, and worked hard at our desks to build out our Olympic Campaign for 2024.

We spent much needed time with loved ones, did our workouts in our living rooms, and via Zoom calls communicated with our team on tactics, strategy, psychology, and more. Yes, even your favorite Olympic class sailing athletes spent the first half of 2020 working from their home living room!

We are officially kicking off our campaign for 2024, but the 2020 quad is quietly continuing in the background. We’re on the water in Long Beach (CA) this summer for a big training block, supported by the US Sailing Team with coaching and a tech program, and thrilled to be together again working on what we do best – sailboat racing.

Honestly, it’s great to be home in the United States training. Excited to share with you that domestic training is a big part of the plan that the team has for the coming years.

Over the next four years we intend to spend a large part of our summers in Long Beach (2028 Olympic Venue), one of the most weather consistent venues in the world that time of year. Depending on the yearly racing circuit, the other part of each summer may be spent at a World Championship venue or at the 2024 Games venue in Marseille.

In the winter, we will train in South Florida, capitalizing on the mild cold fronts, generally warm weather, Ft. Lauderdale ocean access, and Miami flat water sailing opportunities. In the springtime each year we will hope to be back in Europe on a race circuit. What that looks like will depend on how the international schedule shakes out in the coming years as the world starts to heal from COVID-19.

Training in the time of a pandemic has been a unique experience. Here’s how we have learned to adapt so far:

1. Minimize travel, and try to drive instead of fly. We do this by scheduling long training blocks of 4 weeks or more at a time.

2. If flying is the only option, then COVID-19 test before and after arrival, waiting the appropriate number of days.

3. Don’t share housing until both athletes have received a negative test several days after arrival. This means housing logistics are a bit harder than they used to be!

4. Once we “bubble up” together by confirming that we are negative, we keep others out of our COVID-19-free bubble, or at least 6+ feet away from it!

5. We have learned that masks are hard to sail with, and are in fact very ineffective when soaking wet.

6. We have also learned that we can’t control everything, and we don’t have all the answers, but we take the extra steps we can to keep each other safe and healthy.

7. We track our health using Whoop wristbands, and keep our immune systems strong by getting the proper recovery and nutrition daily – consistency of healthy habits is a big deal when it comes to maintaining your immune system.

COVID-19 has had a big effect on all of sport, and it looks like it’s going to bring even more change than it already has.

As you know, campaigning for the Olympics in Sailing has become increasingly professionalized over the last 20 years. It is truly a full time job, and it has required owning more and more equipment as our racing circuits have become spread out across continents.

However, COVID-19 has altered the ability of athletes to travel and race everywhere around the world – and so some of what we have learned about the logistics of our sport is guaranteed to change in the 2024 quadrennium.

That’s why it is really exciting to be American right now. As more domestic training and less constant travel may become the norm, we athletes have a major advantage: a huge country with numerous and incredibly varied venues for training in the sport of sailing.

We’re pleased to be planning our next four years with long domestic training blocks. It will give us the work/life balance we need to make big gains, while allowing us to downsize logistics and equipment.

It will also allow more young American teams to start up campaigns. With more experienced and professional teams staying close to home, there will be vastly more knowledge sharing and collective training opportunities. We will be laying the groundwork for the next generation of Olympic sailors.

Earlier we mentioned that this first year of the 2024 quad is unusual because the 2020 Games overlap it by a year. While normally the first year of a quad is a great opportunity to fundraise, this year that is not the case. Unfortunately, we still need to be able to meet our budgetary requirements in order to keep the USA 50 on the road and training with the Olympic Team.

We need to raise $15,000 to get through this year without making compromises to our program. That money will allow us to buy a spare rig to replace the one that broke in Auckland last December before the 2019 Worlds. It will allow us to keep our strength and conditioning coach, communicate with our sports psychologist, acquire some portable gym equipment now that we cannot safely use a public gym, and cover housing costs in Long Beach between now and the end of October.

We are lucky to have the support of Richmond Yacht Club Foundation and the Skiff Sailing Foundation as we go forward, but we could really use your help too. Please consider making a donation to help us start this quad strong!

Thank you, our donors and friends, for having followed our last campaign toward Tokyo. We learned and grew together as a team in a way we had never experienced before in our careers. We have more work to do, and so much knowledge and experience to apply in the coming years. Big shout out to our sponsors from the end of the 2020 Quad! Thank you to The Kolter Goup and Hyatt for your incredible support in the 2019 year.

We hope all of you will stay tuned as we take this awesome program back out on the road, and continue to work toward getting Team USA on the podium in the Nacra 17 class.

Please follow our team page on Facebook, follow Sarah on Instagram, and follow David/USA 50 on Instagram. Please invite your friends to subscribe to this newsletter by sharing this link: Newsletter!

Fair winds and best regards.

— Sarah and David

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