With the 2012 Olympic Games

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					GOLD ON THE HORIZON
The 2008 Olympic Games might still be waiting to kick off but that doesn’t mean that the sailing world has stopped looking for the next big thing, and we think we might have found him…
ith the 2012 Olympic Games coming to the centre of London and the shores of Weymouth and Portland, there has never been a more hotly anticipated sporting event on the British calendar. Although the organisers have a full four years to get the event preparations and planning perfected before their work is put under the spotlight, it is a very different game for the hundreds of hopefuls dreaming of their chance to sail into the medals and onto the podium in 2012. Nick Thompson is currently a training partner for Laser Olympic hopeful Paul Goodison, and with a

How is Nick planning on making the leap from training partner to Olympic medallist? DSM caught up with him at a coaching event for SailLaser to find out more about what the next few years have in store for him…
How much did it mean to you to win the Sail for Gold Regatta last year? Winning the Sail for Gold regatta was a really pleasing result; with my focus now being on the 2012 Olympics, the knowledge that I am able to put in top results at the venue of the 2012 Games is clearly a step in the right direction. Are you disappointed not to be heading out to Qingdao this summer? Of course, to not be going to the Games is always disappointing. In most other Olympic sports you have the ability to qualify if you’re good enough whereas in sailing there is only the one person who gets the chance to go. That said, Paul has proven himself time and time again and for me is a safe bet for the gold. What is your biggest sailing aspiration and how are you going to get there? An Olympic gold has always been my aspiration, how you get it is a good question! Being a training partner for Paul has taught me a lot about what it takes to make it. The game is only going to get harder by 2012 so the amount of time I spend on the water, on the bike and in the gym is going to have to increase year after year in the build up to the Games. What will you have to do to get selected for the next Olympics? I will really have to prove myself time after time on the Olympic circuit. For me selection is not the part I will be focusing on though, it is the ability to win the gold when I get there that counts. Are you still at University? How did you balance studying with training and racing? I have literally just graduated from Exeter University with a 2:1 in Sports Science, so my days at the books are finally over, but it was a very important part of the process to me, as I feel it should be to all. Many people are pushed in to sailing full time too early and often end up side tracking their studies, convincing themselves that they will return to it later, which is often not the case. University has taught me many lessons that have helped me in my sailing; things like the ability to be independent and time effective. When I was at University my sailing did of course suffer slightly but it was the ideal time to put in some good background fitness and strength work. I would have to be selective in which regattas I did, picking the majors and then being careful to work on the areas that came out of these in my training, but it was worth it. Do you feel like you have had to make sacrifices to get to where you are now? The sacrifices I have had to make were mostly made at an early age, for example when friends were hanging out on the weekends I would be off at events. At that time, if it ended up being a bad event then it didn’t really seem worth it, but looking back on it now it was all necessary and good experience. The sacrifices made now are trivial in comparison to the satisfaction and enjoyment that I now get from being able to do what I love day in day out.

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string of successes to his name already he looks well on his way to becoming one of the names that will top the leader boards when the Olympics finally reach Britain. At just 22 years of age Nick’s previous top results have included gold medals at the ISAF Youth Worlds back in 2004 and also a gold at the Sail for Gold regatta in 2007, as well receiving the accolade of Young Sailor of the Year in 2000. He has undoubtedly set himself up as a serious contender for the next Games and he plans on spending the next four years proving himself worthy of the hype.

Above right: Sailing for first place at the Sail for Gold Regatta. Below: Having raced at some of the biggest pre Olympic Regattas Nick is ready to go for glory.

Photos: Richard Langdon/Skandia Team GBR

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Photo: SailLaser

Putting Nick to the test
What three things can you not live without? Achievement, drive and music. Who has been your biggest inspiration? My dad taught me what it takes to achieve and has always inspired me to push harder. What advice would you give to current youth sailors who aspire to get to your standard of racing? Stick at it and enjoy it! Are you dangerously competitive or do you stay relatively calm? I am a competitive person and used to place a lot of emphasis just on what the result was, which ended up making me very tense. Now I am much more able to look at the big picture meaning I have a much calmer approach to racing. What has been your proudest sailing moment? Winning the ISAF Youth Worlds in 2004. What is the most important skill you have ever learnt? To never give up. What do you enjoy most about coaching? The best thing is seeing progress, especially when the sailors are enjoying it. It is a bit of a challenge when you get a stubborn sailor, but I do enjoy an occasional spot of coaching. Unfortunately, I’m not really planning on doing too much coaching just now as I need to spend as much time as possible focusing on the racing side of things.
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Above: Nick’s determined to be the one to beat at the 2012 Games.

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...I am a competitive person and used to place a lot of emphasis just on what the result was, which ended up making me very tense. Now I am much more able to look at the big picture meaning I have a much calmer approach to racing...

In the May issue of DSM we offered one lucky reader the chance for some one-on-one coaching with Nick Thompson himself, at the SailLaser base in Weymouth. 16 year old Dan Haliburton was the chosen one, spending a weekend perfecting his Laser sailing skills. DSM caught up with him to find out what it felt like to learn from one of the brightest hopes for the future… Why did you enter the competition? Because I have seen Nick sail and I wanted to make sure he passed on some of his knowledge to me. Can you sum up the weekend in three words? Refreshing, exiting and tiring. What did you hope to get from the training? Mainly I wanted to get most of my bad habits sorted out. What are you main sailing weakness and did this weekend help? My main weaknesses are probably starting, beating upwind and tacking. This weekend really helped with this because we did an exercise where I sailed from one side of Portland harbour to the other, tacking on the whistle the whole way, which was maybe a total of 30 or 40 times, just to make sure we were getting everything right.

What are your main sailing strengths? Probably sailing downwind and gybing. During the weekend Nick told me how to sail by the lee and also how to roll gybe properly so this really helped me improve on my strengths too. How was it to get some one-on-one training from Nick? He spoke to me in away I could understand and was always willing to help. From boat preparation to on the water techniques, he never stopped coaching the whole time. What was your favourite part of the coaching sessions? Doing the long upwind and down wind sessions. It meant that Nick could give me lots of pointers on how to prefect those particular techniques and maintain boat speed. Do you have any funny stories about your experiences? It was nice to see Paul Goodison down on the pontoons at Weymouth, sitting on a chair playing with his remote controlled Laser. It goes to show that being an Olympic sailor is not all hard work! What are your sailing aspirations for the future? I would really like to get into the Laser National Youth Squad for either the Radial or Standard. In the long run I guess I would like to get to where Nick is now. How do you plan on working to achieve these? Practise, practise and practise! I am going to spend time on the water perfecting all the different things that Nick has told me. He gave me some really useful pointers on how to do this properly, so I want to make sure I use those. I’m also going to get out there and enter qualifiers, nationals and local events, whilst relying on my dad’s commitment to drive me everywhere! Any final thoughts? I really enjoyed the coaching weekend, and I would like to wish Nick all the best in the future and also wish Paul Goodison luck at the Olympics this summer! DSM

Above: Dan Haliburton making the most of his training session with Nick and SailLaser.

Can you see yourself changing classes anytime soon or do you think you will always be a Laser sailor? I’ll probably stick with Lasers for the near future, and then who knows. Do you think the 2012 Olympics might be your time to shine? Here’s hoping!

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