Riding high in Rio after Worlds success

Nick Thompson reveals how his Laser World Championship success has boosted confidence ahead of Rio 2016.

I think my overriding feeling as we hit the ‘year to go’ to Rio 2016 is one of excitement. A lot of work and preparation has gone into the last three years and in fact the last three Olympic cycles for me. I haven’t had the opportunity to actually go to a Games yet and things are on hopefully on track towards selection. I’m excited at the prospect of it finally happening.

Winning the World Championship last month was really a kind of relief for me. Having come so close before, to finally do it was really a huge relief and almost a ‘monkey off the back’ moment. It had been a while since I’d actually won a big event. I’ve kept medalling at events, but never quite won them so to actually do it was huge and that is a huge confidence boost as we get closer to the Games.

This is now my sixth time in Rio, and each of those trips has been quite long. I think I’m starting to become quite comfortable with the place and the waters. There are issues with spending a lot of time here which have been widely talked about, and risks associated with that, but I think that our team is doing a fantastic job of managing those and trying to stay on top of them, from day to day living to the things we’re doing on the water. I feel pretty comfortable now, almost safe in the environment, which compared to my first trip here is a totally different feeling. I’m happy with the place and I’m learning a lot from the conditions on the water. Rio is a great city and there are lots of things to do. At the moment I’ve been so knackered on some of my rest days that I’ve spent most of them resting, but I know some of the guys have been hiking up some of the mountains and hills and that’s something I am very keen to try and do. It’s a nice place to hang out and there’s always a good atmosphere here. I find it a pretty relaxing place to be in.

With any event I go into, knowing you’ve got the form to be able to do well in that venue is important. I’ve competed here a lot now, and generally I’ve had some pretty solid results. The last Test Event didn’t finish too well due to an unfortunate and unavoidable injury. I wasn’t able to sail the last race and the medal race which was quite costly but still managed to come away with a medal, so that was pretty pleasing. I’m very comfortable sailing on these waters and I think a lot of people aren’t so I feel in a good place.

The racing for the Test Event will be slightly different, with only 37 boats – a similar number to the Olympic Games. Generally the sort of racing that I perform well in has been bigger fleets, like World Championship-style racing where you just try and chip away and not make mistakes. But there have also been events that I’ve done well at which have been in smaller fleets and that’s where I need to just slightly adapt in my techniques on the water. I think the racing will be a lot tighter and those couple of points that you leave on the race track are going to be more important, but I still don’t think there’s any reason why I can’t win the Test Event, and that’s something I’ll certainly be trying to do.

The Laser is a tricky class to pick a favorite in. If you look down the list at previous regattas there are a few names which stand out and obviously Robert Scheidt is one of those names that stands out. I think he’s struggled for form a little bit in the past few months but he’s one of those guys I’m sure you’ll see bounce back and with it being a home Games for him I’m sure he will be right up there. There are a number of sailors who are able to perform well. But I’m really just worried about my own performance. I’ll try to do the best I can and really play to my strengths. That’s all you can do – it’s not a case of targeting one or two rivals and making sure you get the better of them every race, it’s about doing the best you can and working it out at the end of the regatta.

Normally I don’t get particularly emotional about things like results, but I think the Worlds is where it hit me. I’d been chasing that for a long time and to finally achieve it and stand on that podium felt pretty special. The Olympics for me is very similar – I’ve been trying to get there, just to compete at an Olympic Games, for a long time and haven’t yet been able to do so. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t emotionally invested in this and dreaming of standing on that top step with that gold medal being put around my neck.

I think that’s something that probably most people who do this think about every other day. I’m certainly one of those people.

This post first appeared on the RYA Olympic Blog.

Nick Thompson British Olympic Sailing Team
Couresty of the British Sailing Team