Fighting for the love she’s always had

Published on February 8th, 2022

As a two-time Pan American Games gold medalist, Paige Railey was never able to convert that into Olympic gold. Competing in the Women’s One Person Dinghy (ILCA 6), Railey represented USA at the 2012, 2016, and 2020 Games, posting finishes of 8, 10, and 37.

Now 34 years of age, struggles with injury and illness derailed her efforts, and with that Olympic dream all but erased, she found peace by competing in the 2022 West Marine US Open Sailing Series held February 4-6 at her home waters of Clearwater, Florida. Here are her words:

Over six months ago I packed my boat, turned my back, and never looked back. I was so numb and crushed from my Tokyo 2020 results that I didn’t have the heart to do anything sport related.

The only thing I said on the last day of racing was I promised myself I wouldn’t be that athlete who never sailed again and associated their sport with hurt and disappointment due to not achieving a dream.

This past weekend wasn’t about results, it was all about finding the love I have always felt towards sailing. The second day racing hit me like a ton of bricks and I finally began processing what happened with my body, results, and dreams over the last Olympic Cycle. Let me tell you, it hurts so incredibly much.

I’ve seen it multiple times over the years…unachieved dreams break people to the point that they never return to the thing they once loved most and honestly, I’ve been teetering on this happening. But me, taking the step to sail this weekend, was my first exit out of this possibility.

To all those athletes who are in this place, or who already walked away, don’t. We loved our sports long before we set out to take over the world, so when we come home broken and lost it’s important to remember why we started in the first place. We fought for our dreams before, but now firsthand I can say I’m fighting for the love I always had.

I’ve been asked a lot what my plan is. Home has always been on the water and I know under it all that I love this sport. I’ve been doing this since I was 8 years old and it’s not just a sport. Sailing is part of me, it’s developed my character, core and drive and it’s one of those beautiful sports that you can do over your whole lifetime. It’s taking some time, but I’ll be back.

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