Drinking the Olympic Kool-Aid
Published on November 20th, 2022
It is a rarity for Sailing to get much space in the news correspondence from the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee, which has a bit to do with the under-performance of the US Sailing Team and likely a bit more to do with how Sailing is not Track and Field or Figure Skating.
But the International Olympic Committee is high on action sports, and the USOPC is drinking the Kool-Aid as their latest e-newsletter prominently featured Formula Kite World Champion Daniela Moroz. Here’s what they shared with USA sporting enthusiasts:
The level of success Daniela Moroz has achieved as a kiteboarder in recent years could stand up against just about any athlete in the Olympic and Paralympic sports world.
The Californian is weeks removed from achieving her sixth consecutive world title in the sailing discipline and is a three-time US Sailing Yachtswoman of the Year.
The kicker? She’s still just 21 years old.
With kiteboarding – also known as kitesurfing, or Formula Kite – set to make its Olympic debut at the Olympic Games Paris 2024, Moroz will now have a new way to measure her success.
“Something I’d always dreamed of as a kid was going to the Olympics,” Moroz, a native of Lafayette, California, said. “It was just kind of a matter of what sport I wanted to do it in. Now here we are, a couple years out from the Games, and it’s all happening for real, which is pretty crazy.”
With an Olympic dream in mind, the bigger challenge was finding the right sport to focus on.
Moroz calls swimming “her first love.” She competed on her high school swim team, standing out as a long-distance freestyler in events such as the mile.
That sport did wonders for her work ethic, she said, but as the daughter of windsurfers, Vlad and Linda Moroz, Daniela eventually found her own way in the realm of kiteboarding.
Sailing, one of the quintessential Olympic sports dating back to the second modern Olympic Games in 1900, is continuously evolving. In its quest for greater gender equality and diversity of nations, the sport amended its Olympic program ahead of Paris. Among the changes was adding kiteboarding events for women and men.
The fast-paced discipline, with athletes harnessed to a kite and gliding across the water on a board, reaching speeds up to 40 knots (46 mph) and jumping 20 feet into the air, is expected to be a fan-favorite in 2024.
Daniela’s chosen discipline is similar but different from that of her parents, windsurfing. In kiteboarding, athletes are attached to both the board and the sail or parachute. In windsurfing, the sail is attached to the board, but not the athlete.
Regardless of what path Moroz’s career would have taken, she credits her parents for always being in her corner.
“My parents exposed me to the sport at a young age, but they never forced me to do it at all,” Moroz said. “They were always super supportive of whatever sport I wanted to try or do.
“Whether it was tennis, water polo or whatever it was, they were like, ‘Oh, yeah, let’s do it. Why not?’ Then when I wanted to learn to kite, they were like, ‘Okay, great! We can get you lessons.’”
Moroz took to kiteboarding with a minimal learning curve. At 12 years old, she was the youngest of junior competitors to attend a kiteboard racing clinic held by the St. Francis Yacht Club in her hometown of San Francisco.
She had her first race later that year and was competing in international events by the age of 14. In 2016, one year after competing internationally for the first time, Moroz won her first world championship and her first Yachtswoman of the Year honor.
Meanwhile, she juggled a world championship schedule with the social and academic rigors of high school and continued to do so for the next three years. She won her first world championship while in the 10th grade.
“I felt like when I was growing up, I was living two different lives, or at least in high school,” Moroz said. “That’s especially because I would be going to class, then swim practice. Then I would leave for a week and be in a completely different world with my kiting friends, traveling around the world to different regattas.
“By the end of high school, I felt like I had nothing in common with my high school friends, but I was totally okay with it. I didn’t really feel like I missed out on anything because I loved kiting.”
Even as the discipline has seen a surge in popularity after earning its Olympics inclusion, Moroz has remained dominant. A streak of 32 consecutive wins in international regattas, which spanned over six years, ended with a second-place finish in June. However, Moroz was back atop the podium at the world championships last month in Italy.
As life moved quickly for the young kiteboarder, the awards and achievements continued to pile up. What’s kept her going, she said, is that she’s continued to find ways to stay attached to the sport she loves, with or without its imminent inclusion in the Games.
“I’m just addicted to the process,” Moroz said. “I can’t stop thinking about and figuring out ways to get better. I really enjoy pushing myself to see what I can do and what I’m capable of.”
Nearly a decade into her career and still in her low 20s, Moroz has formed a fast bond with her new coach, the former British sailor Chris Rashley.
Rashley has only been working with Moroz since July. But the American has said he embodies all the attributes of a good coach and mentor. He is able to push Moroz and match her commitment to her goals, but also understands when it is time to urge his athlete to take a step back and physically preserve herself. He helped Moroz through an uncharacteristic loss of speed earlier this fall and is aligned with his athlete on her goals for the 2024 Games.
“We honestly haven’t talked about winning the gold medal at the Olympics,” Moroz said. “I want to deliver my best performances no matter what that is. If it happens to be a gold medal, or any medal, that’s great!
“We really both just enjoy the process a lot. We’re both addicts for this.”
Paris 2024 Olympic Sailing Program:
Men’s One Person Dinghy – ILCA 7
Women’s One Person Dinghy – ILCA 6
Mixed Two Person Dinghy – 470
Men’s Skiff – 49er
Women’s Skiff – 49erFx
Men’s Kiteboard – Formula Kite Class
Women’s Kiteboard – Formula Kite Class
Men’s Windsurfing – iQFoil
Women’s Windsurfing – iQFoil
Mixed Multihull – Nacra 17
Venue: Marseille, France
Dates: July 26-August 11