London 2012 Olympics - In this edition of Meet the Team we introduce Bob Willis, RS:X Men’s Windsurfer. Willis (Chicago, Ill.), 25, began his sailing career at the age of eight, and quickly advanced through Optimists and 420s. He soon became very serious about competitive windsurfing and at the 2008 Olympic Trials in Long Beach Calif., winning four out of 16 races. In 2011 he placed seventh at the Pan American Games. A member of Columbia Yacht Club, this is his first Olympic Games.
What motivated you to pursue an Olympic sailing campaign? I was in Athens in 2004 watching the U.S. 49er team compete. Pete Spaulding is my ex-brother in law and watching that 49er team compete in the Games was a big moment for me. Additionally, that same day we had sailing tickets; we also got to see the windsurfers race as they were on the same course as the 49er. That was my first exposure to Olympic windsurfing and I thought it was by far, the most interesting of all the sailing classes, particularly because it is so physical and dynamic. I watched Peter Wells race, my current coach, and I actually think he may have crashed during that race!
What are you most looking forward to about competing in the Olympics? The racing! I love the sailing in Weymouth. The course areas offer so much variety and it will be crucial to adapt to the different conditions of wind and water everyday on a different course. Specifically, racing on the Nothe course will be particularly exciting, as about a 1/4th of the course is cut off because of the Nothe fort, so there will be 38 boards, racing at 15- 25 mph navigating the tiny course area….it’s going to be a lot of fun.
Additionally, I am really looking forward to interacting with all the other athletes, and learning their training programs and how they got to the top in their respective sport.
What will be your biggest challenge during the Games? The uncertainty. This will be my first Games and I am not entirely sure what to expect, from the food, to the supplied equipment. All the windsurfers were handed their Games gear on July 18th, in what is essentially a wild card. You could have great equipment, and everything will be fine. Or you could have slow equipment and it will be difficult to overcome leading up to the first race, but I have no control over this, so it is what it is.
Have any veterans given you advice for your first Olympics? Peter Wells, my coach and 2004 Olympian has been helping me a lot. Essentially, I am approaching it as any other peak event and following a similar training program to that of the 2011 Sail for Gold Regatta and the 2011 Perth Worlds (Olympic selection events). My training program is not going to change just because it is the Olympics. I will follow what worked for me at past peak events and apply the same approach to the Games and treat it as another peak event, with a proper six-week build up.
Describe your sport in three words. Dynamic. Fast. Pumping.
Any sports teams that you follow? Yeah, I would love to see the U.S. Women’s Soccer team play, swimming, track and field and clearly basketball.