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From the Athletes: How ICOYC Clubs Supported my Journey to the Olympic Games

It’s an honour to see so many ICOYC Member Clubs represented at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, scheduled to start on 23 July, 2021. Competing in this global contest of the best in the world is the dream of many an aspiring athlete.

For these sailors, this will be the competition of a lifetime and a goal they’ve been working toward for years. Without the physical and financial support of their yacht clubs, many of them would not have the resources to get this far. These are the most elite athletes from the most elite clubs in the world—learn more about them and how they are preparing for the ultimate test on the water.

Olympian: Luke Muller, Finn

Country: USA
ICOYC Member Club: St. Francis Yacht Club
Follow on Social: @lukemuller_ (instagram)

As you prepare for the Games in Tokyo, how are you feeling?
Luke: I feel driven with a sense of responsibility to represent our country and club well in Tokyo.

Why is participation in the Olympics important to you?
Participating in these Olympics is particularly important to me because this past year has involved unforeseen circumstances and adversity and I hope to demonstrate my ability to persevere.

What are your goals? What do you want to achieve?
I hope to qualify for the finals to compete for an Olympic medal. Thereafter, I’d like to continue to add value to elite sailing teams to the best of my ability.

What are you doing to prepare, physically and mentally, in these final weeks?
My coach and I have a long training camp scheduled in Europe in June to continue our progress on the water. From a physical preparation side, we have planned out every week from now until the Games in order to maintain and build upon the fitness that I have developed in the last year. I also work with a mental coach and we are constantly tuning and refining my mindset in order to get the most out of every day. 

What is the greatest challenge you face?
I believe the greatest challenge will be to remain clearheaded and consistent in my mindset and to continue to hold to the high work rate that I have maintained the last six months.

How has your yacht club played a part in your journey?
My yacht club is my community and support system. Many of our members of the St. Francis are my dear friends and the closest supporters of my campaign. My Finn campaign started in San Francisco Bay and I hope to end my Finn journey with a celebration in the club with those who have made it possible.

Anything else you want us to know?
I want to thank you for sharing my story with the ICOYC and all of its members. I wish you all the very best!

Olympian: Cecilia Jonsson & Emil Järudd, Nacra 17

Country: Sweden
ICOYC Member Club: Royal Swedish Yacht Club (KSSS/RSYC)
Follow on Social: Instagram @cicjon and @emiljarudd; Facebook Team Page @Nacra17Sweden

As you prepare for the Games in Tokyo, how are you feeling?
Cecilia: We are happy and excited. We qualified for Tokyo 2020 in April 2021 and we are very excited and very much looking forward to going to Japan in July. It’s an honor to represent Sweden and KSSS in the Olympics.

Why is participation in the Olympics important to you?
Cecilia: Racing at the Olympics has been a longtime dream for me personally. I’ve campaigned for the Olympics before, towards Rio 2016 in the 49er FX, but we lost the trials. Sailing the Nacra 17 is great fun but a great challenge. I love the fact that it’s a mixed class and each team decides themselves who’s the skipper and who’s the crew. Women and men are racing each other on equal terms. I also think it’s important to show the younger generation that it takes a lot of time and hard work to reach the top. I’m 30 years old now and I’m going to my first Olympics. I’m feeling stronger and better than ever and still feeling I have a lot left to give.

Emil: I have dreamed of competing since I was a kid. It’s a very cool competition with the best athletes and a lot of history.

What are your goals? What do you want to achieve?
Cecilia: Our goal for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics is to race our very best. The Nacra fleet is at a very high standard and we really have to perform on top to be able to fight for the medals. A medal is possible if we stick to our routines and push ourselves to the very max, and if we support and lift each other as a team. Hopefully we can race in Tokyo without having any pressure that we have to perform—just enjoy the sailing and then the results will come.

Our longterm goal is gold at the Paris 2024 Olympics. Tokyo 2020 is a step in the right direction and we will do everything in our power to take advantage of this opportunity and learn as much as possible to get experience for the next games.

Emil: Olympic gold! Hoping to get multiple chances by sailing in more Games.

What are you doing to prepare, physically and mentally, in these final weeks?
Cecilia: In the last weeks of preparation, we are trying to get in as much racing as possible. We have been training in Santander, Spain, during April and May and raced against 12 of the 20 other Olympic teams. It’s been a really good setup and we have had a lot of hours on the water. The last weeks before flying to Japan are all about staying fit and healthy. Make sure to arrive recovered and filled with energy.

Emil: Training hard and trying to mentally prepare for the games and how they might look.

What is the greatest challenge you face?
Cecilia: One of the greatest challenges as a Nacra crew is to avoid injuries and to make sure your body is in top shape. It’s a constant balance between pushing and giving yourself some slack to be able to recover and keep fit in the long run. One other challenge is that I race against men and theoretically they are stronger and bigger, but it’s a fun challenge and I think all us female crews are enjoying it and want to show that we can do as good a job as the male crews.

Emil: Putting together a whole series of good scores will be an exciting challenge.

How has your yacht club played a part in your journey?
Cecilia: KSSS/RSYC has been a huge part of our campaign and we have to thank them for making this journey possible. We have received great support from them the last four years, both financially and with knowledge and expertise.

Emil: They have helped me every step of the way since I started sailing there in an Optimist.

Anything else you want us to know? It’s an honor to represent KSSS/RSYC and know that we have the support from so many people out there when we head to Tokyo this summer.

Olympian: U.S. Coast Guard LT Nikole ‘Nikki’ Barnes & Lara Dallman-Weiss, Women’s 470

Country: USA
ICOYC Member Club: St. Francis Yacht Club
Follow on Social: @perfectvisionsailing (Instagram and Facebook)

As you prepare for the Games in Tokyo, how are you feeling?
Nikki: We feel great! We are still hungry to keep learning but we are also confident that our training has been working.

Why is participation in the Olympics important to you?
Lara: We are both athletes to the core, and this is the highest level in which we can compete. We also both carry a lot of people with us so it’s an honor to represent friends, family and our country.

What are your goals? What do you want to achieve?
Nikki: Our goals for the Olympic Games this summer are to sail at our highest potential and to enjoy the process. If that means achieving the top of the podium and winning the gold, we will do that 😉

What are you doing to prepare, physically and mentally, in these final weeks?
Lara: We are putting emphasis on nutrition, working with our physical trainers and sports psychologists to prepare for any scenario. One of the most important things is to make sure we are ready for the extreme heat in Japan.

What is the greatest challenge you face?
Nikki: This is our first Olympic Games so our challenge is to not get overwhelmed by the Games’ environment. With that said, this will be a totally different Olympic Games due to COVID, so the challenge will be on every team as well.

How has your yacht club played a part in your journey?
Lara: My home yacht club, White Bear YC, has helped us fundraise tremendously and so many of the members reach out with words of encouragement which fuels our fire!

Anything else you want us to know?
Nikki: If you are reading this and you have a little girl, tell her that we were just like her. Tell her to shoot for the stars, do the impossible and never ever let anyone hold her back. This applies to everyone, but we especially want to inspire more girls to get out there and sail and show the boys how it’s done!

Olympian: Stephanie Roble & Maggie Shea, 49erFX

Country: USA
ICOYC Member Club: Chicago Yacht Club, Lake Beulah Yacht Club
Follow on Social: @RobleSheaSailing

As you prepare for the Games in Tokyo, how are you feeling?
Maggie: Recently I’ve started feeling excited for the Games because it feels like after a long delay, they are finally close to becoming a reality. But with regard to sailing, we are hyper-focused on very specific goals at the moment, and I’m trying to maintain a reasonable level of intensity on and off the water. I know it will be important to show up to the Games fresh, and so we’re trying not to burn ourselves out. It’s tempting to overwork at this stage. Most importantly, Steph & I always try to enjoy this process. It’s not always fun, but we can embrace and accept the challenges—after all, that’s what we love about it.

Steph: I am feeling hungry, focused and excited! I am ready to put my all into the final countdown.

Why is participation in the Olympics important to you?
Maggie: The Olympic Games have been this huge mountain that I’ve always wanted to climb. I love the processes of learning, improving, problem-solving, and evolving as sailors and people. Furthermore, I love high-quality, tight racing in the 49er FX. Nothing is more exciting than fighting for every little inch while sailing against the best in the world. I cannot wait to do that in Enoshima this summer.

Steph: Ever since I was sailing in optimists and learned that sailing is in the Olympics, I have wanted to qualify to represent the United States of America. I am really proud to have achieved that goal. However, Maggie and I have been training tirelessly for 5 years and our goal is to not just go to the Olympics. We are aiming to bring home a medal for Team USA and are fully focused on our preparation to put ourselves in a position to execute good processes at the Olympics.

What are your goals? What do you want to achieve?
Maggie: I want to prepare as diligently and thoroughly as possible, and let that preparation give me confidence when the first day of racing arrives. Then I want to take it one race at a time and sail to the best of our abilities, which means sticking to the processes that we’ve worked hard to develop over the last five years. I want to focus on executing skills that we’ve learned and I hope to deliver a medal-winning performance.

Steph: My goal is to represent Team USA to the best of my abilities. Our team goal is to execute the processes that we have been developing and refining for 5 years. If we can do all of those things I believe we will put ourselves in a position to win a medal for Team USA; our ultimate goal!

What are you doing to prepare, physically and mentally, in these final weeks?
Maggie: Just like any other regatta, we are organizing a training schedule that will allow us to feel fresh, well-rested and hungry when we show up to the Games. That means we will put in hard hours on the water in late May/early June, then we’ll take a little break. After that probably 1-2 more weeks of moderate training to brush up on all our skills around the race track. Then a little break to recharge the batteries before we head to Tokyo!

Steph: A few things we are focusing on is eliminating distractions, team dynamic and communication, sharpening our mental tools for performance, becoming super fit and reviewing race processes.

What is the greatest challenge you face?
Maggie: With any important regatta, the biggest challenge is not letting the pressure that comes along with the event turn into negative stress.

Steph: This is a good question! I don’t have anything specific because it is all a challenge. That’s why I do it.

How has your yacht club played a part in your journey?
Maggie: Without the support of Chicago Yacht Club, I’m not sure if I would have made it this far in my sailing career. Chicago Yacht Club was where I fell in love with sailing at a young age. The club has felt like a second home to me ever since. The CYC community helped nurture and support me as a junior sailor in high school and then as a professional sailor after college. CYC supported my multiple sailing teams over the years, both in the form of individual donations from members and grants from the Competition Fund raised by the CYC. The wonderful members, leadership and staff of Chicago Yacht Club have felt like one big extended family. I feel very lucky to call CYC home.

Steph: My home yacht club, Lake Beulah, in Wisconsin has been a massive part of my journey. The sailing school there provided a structure in my early years of sailing that made me fall in love with the sport and being on the water. It was a healthy combination of intense competition and fun/camaraderie that inspired me to pursue high levels of sailing. My best friend, Annie Haeger, who I grew up sailing with since age 5 went to the Rio Olympics in the 470 and has been a huge inspiration to me along this journey. Besides that everyone at our small, member run club has been so supportive (financially & emotionally) and proud of both of us.                                            

Anything else you want us to know?
There are many other awesome yacht clubs that have played a huge role in the success of our campaign. Lake Beulah Yacht Club, Steph’s home club, and the LBYC community has been a major supporter of our campaign. St. Francis Sailing Foundation also started supporting our campaign financially in 2019, and we are so grateful. Finally, I learned to sail at White Lake Yacht Club in Michigan, and had so much fun there as a junior sailor, so I’m very grateful to that community, as well.

Olympian: Jesper Stålheim, Laser

Country: Sweden
ICOYC Member Club: KSSS/Royal Sweden Yacht Club
Follow on Social: @jesperstalheim

As you prepare for the Games in Tokyo, how are you feeling?
I feel good and confident. Still have some things that need some work, but overall I am close to where I want to be. Participating in the Olympics has been a lifetime goal, because it is the pinnacle of Olympic sailing.

What are your goals? What do you want to achieve?
I want to take a medal.

What are you doing to prepare, physically and mentally, in these final weeks?
We have one more training camp with our training group. Other than that it’s about working on my fitness and preparing mentally for the event.

How has your yacht club played a part in your journey?
KSSS is a massive part of my campaign through economic help, coach boats, trailers, coaches and more. But mostly—it’s through the friendship with my fellow team KSSS sailors and the entire club! 

Olympian: Anton Dahlberg and Fredrik Bergström, Men’s 470

Country: Sweden
ICOYC Member Club: KSSS/Royal Sweden Yacht Club
Follow on Social: @swe470 (Instagram) @teamdahlbergbergstrom (Facebook)

As you prepare for the Games in Tokyo, how are you feeling?
I feel both humbled, energized and a bit scared at the same time. I try to embrace these feelings, while I also feel great honor to represent my club RSYC and my country at the games.

Why is participation in the Olympics important to you?
It is the pinnacle sport event for me. It’s huge. To be specific—it is an event which is the pinnacle event of a personal journey of constant learning that started way back in 2006.

What are your goals? What do you want to achieve?
I am trying to cultivate all the experience I have built up through the years to filter out all noise and really focus on key areas which I believe will be crucial for a success full performance in the bay of Enoshima. Our goal is to win the Olympic gold in Tokyo 2020

What is the greatest challenge you face?
The greatest challenge I face is having courage enough to believe in what we do even though it sometimes it feels like you do not make progress. To embrace the challenge ahead and do the best you can realizing you cannot control everything.

How has your yacht club played a part in your journey?
The Royal Swedish Yacht Club has been instrumental in making us be this well-prepared for the Olympics, having recently won the World Championship this year. Their relentless support—in this long journey—filled with successes as well as failures is truly amazing. Kudos RSYC!