One year on from the Olympics the RYA now catches up with silver medalist Nick Dempsey and finds out how driven he is to become the most successful Olympic windsurfer, ever…
Nick Dempsey claimed his second Olympic windsurfing medal at the 2012 Games, adding silver to his bronze from Athens, and putting his demons of a fourth place in Beijing behind him. Dempsey had a brief foray into kiteboarding when windsurfing was temporarily removed from the Olympic programme, but when it was reinstated he jumped back on the board and became the first man ever to win two RS:X Windsurfing World title in March:
“The build up to an Olympics is the best time of your life. It is also the most stressful. It all feels so much longer than a year ago.
“You are completely and utterly engrossed in what you are doing to achieve your goal and every day you are working around the clock on things that you believe will make a massive impact to the final result.
“Right now I can have a day off knowing it won’t have any effect on what happens in Rio in three years’ time, but in the build up to the Games you don’t want to. It is completely one extreme to the other.
“I thrive on the intensity of that situation, for all the stress it feels pretty awesome.
“The last minute preparation for an Olympics, for me, was just as stressful at 19 in Sydney 2000 as it was at 31 at London 2012. I guess you learn to deal with the stress better as you get older. You have a more balanced perspective of the whole thing, although the desire to do well is just as strong.
“I remember hardly anything about my regatta. You can’t recreate the pressure of an Olympic race and when you are racing what you are doing is almost automated. You get into your zone and that zone becomes everything. I can’t go back there mentally and switch it on and off on demand, it only comes from being in that situation.
“Outside of my own silver medal, London 2012 for me was Bradley Wiggins winning the time trial. Bradley does everything for the right reasons. He is obviously very gifted but works so hard to make the most of his talent. He had just won the Tour de France, put himself through the road race and then to win the time trial was pretty special. Andy Murray winning gold was cool too after what happened at Wimbledon.
“We watched loads of the Olympics at our team house in Portland. There were a few TVs around so there was always loads of coverage on although I have never really understood it when people say they were inspired seeing other athletes do well. At an Olympic Games how can you want to do well more because you have seen someone else win a medal? You surely want to do as well as you can anyway.
“After the Games it took me a good few months to get back on the board again. Obviously there was also the uncertainty around whether windsurfing was even going to feature at Rio 2016 going on and during that time I had a go at kitesurfing, which had been lined up to replace windsurfing at the Games.
“I really enjoyed trying that out, but when windsurfing was reinstated in November I then had to have a real think about whether I wanted to do another Olympic RS:X campaign. I think everyone’s assumption was of course I would do it but it wasn’t that clear cut, it took a few days to think things through.
“Did I believe I could do everything I needed to do to give myself the best chance of winning a gold medal? An Olympic campaign is such a huge physical, emotional, mental and financial commitment, and I will be almost 36 by the time Rio comes around. If I didn’t think I could go there to win I didn’t think I could put myself through the next four years.
If I win in Rio I will become the most successful men’s Olympic windsurfer ever. That is a massive motivation to keep continuing.
“When I got back on the board in January, and won a silver medal at the Miami ISAF World Cup regatta, with practically no training whatsoever it felt great.
“To follow that up by winning the RS:X World Championships in Brazil, in what I still think was one of my best performances ever, was fantastic.
“It was disappointing not to achieve my other performance goal of winning the Europeans in France in July. I had a great first half of the regatta but two bad races cost me and I finished fourth after winning the final race.
“Even so it was nice to be racing at the front of the fleet again on limited training. Now the Santander 2014 ISAF Sailing World Championships Test Event, being held in Santander this September, gives me something to aim at as winning the Worlds again next year is a big target and this event gives us a chance to look at and get a feel for the venue. It isn’t necessarily a performance regatta but it is very important.
“I love the fact that when I’m in Weymouth, every day you can see 20 or so people out there learning to windsurf, there are new windsurfing shops opening in the town and the local windsurfing school has just bought six new RS:One boards so that the kids can get out racing in the evenings. I have definitely got the sense there is definitely an exciting enthusiasm for the sport since last summer.
“The kids I have met in schools are just overwhelmed when they hold the medal but generally kids don’t feel it is possible for them to do something like that.
“The reality is for many kids an Olympic medal is a distant dream, not everyone has got it in them to do it or the talent, ability or resources needed to do a sport to Olympic level. A lot of things have to fall into place to be able to do it.
“But for me London 2012 wasn’t about inspiring a generation to become Olympic medalists, it was about sparking the idea that competition and sport can be fun, and encouraging people to get off their backsides and challenge themselves. London’s biggest legacy isn’t about the top end it should be about the grassroots and I personally am very pleased to see a genuine passion for sport emerging.
Check out our #2012inspired sailor blogs running all this week at www.britishsailingteam.com as we celebrate the build up to the Games Anniversary on 27 July – and share your own #2012inspired stories on the British Sailing Team Facebook page for the chance to win some fantastic prizes!