It’s obviously been a massive few weeks for windsurfing after the RS:X class was reinstated for the Rio 2016 Olympics at the ISAF Annual Conference in Ireland.
Everyone just assumed I’d immediately jump at the chance to do a 2016 RS:X campaign but the truth is I’ve spent a good few days this week thinking about whether that would be the right thing for me. I had to question if I wanted to do it and whether if I did do it, would I be able to do everything required of me to win a gold medal in Rio.
The reality is being an Olympic windsurfer is bloody hard work, bloody hard work, and it is a huge commitment. Also by the time the next Games come around I’ll be 35, would age potentially be an issue?
But after a lot of really good discussions this week, with people who’s opinions I trust and respect, I made the decision to go for it. The British sailing team manager, Stephen Park, made a really good point that if I won gold in Rio, I’d be the most successful Olympic windsurfer ever. That definitely made the thought of doing a campaign more appealing.
When it comes to age, I just look at athletes across all sports to know that there is nothing wrong with the body at 35. Ben Ainslie was 35 when he won his fourth Olympic sailing gold medal this summer. The Greek windsurfer Nikos Kaklamanakis was 36 when he won silver at Athens 2004 and look at the Ethiopian long distance runner, Haile Gebrselassie.
What I do know is at 35, and having done four previous Olympics, you’ve got a bloody wise head on your shoulders and you are very experienced. You know how to do it.
I also spent a lot of time training in Brazil before the London Games. I love Brazil, I know the waters and the fact it is a light wind venue means certain parts of your training can be a lot more controllable than they were for Weymouth. In Weymouth you had to be prepared for anything and everything, Rio will be more like Beijing in a lot of ways.
I’d tried to keep it low key but for the past two months I’ve been out kiteboarding pretty much every day in Weymouth.
I’d never done the sport before but everything everyone had said about windsurfing skills being easily transferable to kiteboarding was right. I got the hang of it pretty easily and towards the end felt I was close to starting to race. More importantly I absolutely loved it. I was ripping it and was really excited about the potential that was there.
During the ISAF Conference there was the suggestion that they were going to try to go for mixed kiteboarding and mixed windsurfing events as a compromise. There was a good chance that was going to happen and although I didn’t really think mixed racing was the best way forward I was okay with the idea because it meant both sports would be in.
My dad is President of the RS:X class and he has been working really hard on trying to get the class re-instated for 2016. So when I was saying to him, “I’m really enjoying this kiteboarding,” it was quite difficult!
When I heard, like most people do nowadays via Facebook, I had a bit of a mixed reaction. Windsurfing is what I do, it’s who I’ve been for the past 15 years. But I was absolutely loving the kiteboarding, and I felt for the kiteboarding community.
Next week I’ll be getting back on the board. I’ve not actually been on an RS:X since the final medal race in Weymouth. My mind maybe ready for it but my body’s going to hurt a lot!
I may have done a lot of kiteboarding but there’s been no fitness or gym work around that, it was basically just learning the skills so I’m pretty out of shape. The RS:X World Championships are scheduled to take place in Brazil in the first three months of next year so I’ve not got a massive amount of time to get fit and be race ready before that.
The RS:X Windsurfers are some of the fittest Olympic sailing athletes and here Team Volvo's Nick Dempsey talks through his fitness regime in the build up to London 2012.
Now my focus switches to next week and resurrecting my RS:X team of Barrie Edgington my coach and Elliot Carney, who’s coming back to play as my training partner. I’ve already ditched all my kiteboarding gear, to get rid of the temptation of using it too much more than anything, and now I’ve got the first part of the next four years of my life to crack on with.
The most successful Olympic windsurfer of all time. Who wouldn’t be motivated by that prospect?
PS: A massive mention to Sweden’s Anders Bringdal and France’s Antoine Albeau for becoming the first windsurfers to break the 50 knots speed barrier at the Lüderitz Speed Challenge in Namibia this week. It was perfect conditions but to do that is unbelievable. It works out as about 25 metres a second! The fastest I’ve ever clocked is around 43.5 knots, which is quick, but what they have done is crazy.
Race against the windsurfing medallist at http://www.sailforgoldgame.com