Women succeed because of adversity

Published on October 18th, 2021

While funding is a major driver to success in sailing, and certainly in Olympic sailing, hunger and drive may be even more important. For the US program, this was highlighted at the Rio 2016 Olympics when Caleb Paine won the only medal for the country.

Paine did not come from riches, and working within a national program light on funds, he embraced an impoverished existence and fought through obstacles from an early age to achieve his goal. Arthur Christopher Bulger takes this message a step further:


Is there a bigger story in American sailing than Daniela Moroz winning the 2021 Formula Kite Worlds? It’s a world title for heaven’s sake. In a growing Olympic discipline.

Daniela gives the US Sailing Team a sailor capable of winning an Olympic Gold in high-performance sailing – she is the current favorite in fact. This win is another sign that for the U.S. to succeed on the Olympic stage, we should shift our priority to investing in our women’s team.

If you listen to what the great Santiago Lange told Paul Cayard, as reported by Paul on Shirley Robertson’s Sailing Podcast, Lange is reported to believe that the major impediment holding American sailors back in the Olympics isn’t too little funding, it’s too much funding.

Lange observes that American sailors are spoon fed, starting in Optis and through college. Our youth system has evolved so that the best sailors are buried in resources – boats, sails, coaches – but they never have to sacrifice or even do any boat work.

They are the most spoiled of athletes and can in fact rise to the top in the US without the hunger required to do the work needed to win on the world stage. Lange is a 7-time Olympian who won a gold medal in his 50s less than a year after a major bout with cancer. Seems clear he knows what it takes.

When I reflect on Lange’s comments – and Daniela’s accomplishment – I realize that the American women face so much discrimination; they aren’t spoiled by our system the way the boys are. For American women, there is plenty of embedded adversity to make them strong enough to compete and win at the highest level.

According to a recent report in USA Today, women face a 25% chance of being assaulted when they enroll in a US college. And you don’t need to go that far to understand that our system asks more of women than men.

We can’t change our culture overnight, so, if we want Olympic medals with our current feeder system – time to channel the resources to our women – it’s the superior funnel already. Imagine if they got the majority of resources!

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