Walter Cooper/ Us Sailing
US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics: 2001-2004 (Laser), 2005-2008 (Finn)
Member of: St. Francis YC
Education: Clearwater High School, University of Miami (graduated 2006)
Birthdate: May 9, 1984
Birthplace: St. Petersburg, Fla.
Hometown: Clearwater, Fla.
Occupation: Full-time sailor
Significant sailing achievements: In 1995, youngest sailor (age 11) to qualify and compete at the Optimist World Championship, Ranked on the U.S. Sailing Team in two classes: Laser (2001-2004) and Finn (2005-2008)
Biography: After an unsuccessful Trials in the Laser class for the 2004 Games, Railey switched to the Finn, finding the boat better suited to his physique. When he arrived at the 2007 U.S. Olympic Team Trials, he faced venerable Finn talents-some of whom had more than a decade in the boat compared to his three years of Finn sailing. But Railey was not cowed by the competition.
"Experience was something I had to overcome," he says of the Trials. "I went into that regatta knowing I had done everything I could to win, and it gave me an extra bit of swagger. Once we started sailing, all my training and preparation just took over: I have never wanted to win an event more in my life."
His sister Paige, herself a top-ranked sailor, has been one of his greatest inspirations: "I was able to watch her rise through the ranks while I was in college. She was a huge part of helping me get to where I am at today."
Those making Olympic predictions need to remember one thing about Zach Railey: he likes the heat of competition. He is drawn to high-pressure situations on the water and the rigorous training needed to face them. "I like sailing in pressure situations," says Railey, "and I don't think anything will be more pressure-packed than the Olympics."
2008 5th Sail Melbourne International Regatta/Melbourne, Australia, 28th Finn Gold Cup/Victoria, Australia
2007 1st Finn Pacific Coast Championships/San Mateo, Calif., 2nd Expert Olympic Garda/Lake Garda, Italy, 8th The Good Luck Beijing - 2007 Qingdao International Regatta/Qingdao, China