TeamNL Sailing look ahead: “2020 Olympics postponed, but not 2024”

After the announcement of the postponement of the Olympic Games, all already qualified Dutch sailors and windsurfers have decided to continue with their Olympic campaign towards 2021.

 

The postponement of the games is a big change, but according to head coach Jaap Zielhuis it also offers opportunities to do even better in 2021.

At the same time, the Watersports Association faces a number of challenges. Various new sailing disciplines are scheduled for 2024, the preparations and costs of which now coincide with those of an Olympic year. Creative solutions are needed; for example, Aaron McIntosh will help shape the programs in the new Olympic classes.

 

Switching, adapting, and being as creative as possible with available resources

The postponement of the Games has not thrown a spanner in the works for the Dutch team. All athletes and coaches are continuing together, adjusting their sails and setting their sights on 2021. Zielhuis found it important that everyone took some time to think critically about this: “I asked all athletes and coaches to take some time to think about whether they really wanted to continue. Another year has different consequences for everyone. We should not just ignore that. But I am happy that we can continue with the current team”.

2021: taking things off the shelf to be even better

In 2018 and 2019, TeamNL Sailing already proved to be the best Olympic sailing team in the world. The team was therefore ready for Tokyo 2020. “I expect that we can continue this line in the coming period. This postponement means switching gears, but it also absolutely offers opportunities,” Zielhuis says. “Things that we no longer had time for and had put on the back burner, we can now take back off the shelf. For example, we can increase our knowledge of the competition rules, dealing with heat and a number of issues in the area of wind patterns on the Olympic sailing water can still be explored further. There is definitely still room for improvement here for us”.

In addition, sessions have been started where the current talents of the Top Sailing Academy can seek online advice from the already qualified Tokyo goers. “Now that we are all in the Netherlands and there are no international training camps or races, our core team members really have the time to help their successors. This is super and is also very valuable with a view to 2024.”

The Olympic sailing team is happy that it was able to make good arrangements with NOC*NSF to continue training on the water – under strict conditions. “We are lucky as Olympic outdoor athletes. Sure, we are bound by the corona rules and had to do it for a period without our Top Sailing Center, but those training hours on the water are extremely valuable to us.”

Windsurfing coach Aaron McIntosh supports Zielhuis in shaping 2024 program

The postponement of the Olympic Games for Tokyo creates a duplication of sailing programs and thus additional (financial) challenges. The provisional lack of a new main sponsor from the summer of 2020 also reinforces these challenges and requires maximum flexibility and creativity from the athletes, coaches and staff of the Watersports Association.

The 2024 Olympics should not be overshadowed. In 2024, new sailing disciplines will be added to Olympic sailing and some “old” classes will disappear. “The new classes, including Offshore sailing, windfoiling and kitefoiling require extra attention. In addition, since summer 2019 a selection of talented sailors is being prepared for an Olympic campaign in the foiling Nacra17,” Zielhuis continued.

In order not to lose focus towards 2021, Zielhuis has enlisted the help of RS:X windsurfing coach Aaron McIntosh to shape the plans towards 2024. Especially for the new classes, McIntosh will consider the best and smartest policies for the Dutch sailors, windsurfers and kitesurfers. A challenge that is right up his alley and for which space has arisen now that he is in New Zealand, while “his” windsurfer Kiran Badloe and sparring partner Sil Hoekstra can be found in the Netherlands.

“Especially the high performance classes and foiling are familiar territory for Aaron,” says Zielhuis. “He is also a creative person who excels in (among other things) creating the right mindset within teams. So I am very pleased that Aaron is willing to take on this task, at least during the corona crisis. 2020 may be delayed, but 2024 is not. And running dual programs is not easy. Also, given the financial challenges, we will now have to make the most of the people who are currently available. We fortunately have a large club of experts and professionals who can be of use to multiple groups, so we are making the best use of that.”

Text: Lieke Beukema

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