Leading up to Beijing 2008 Olympics, British Laser champion Paul Goodison had a dominant 18 months, winning both test events and finishing off that campaign with an Olympic Gold Medal in light weather at the Qingdao regatta.
In the current Olympic cycle, his arch rival 25 year-old Australian Tom Slingsby, the 2010 World Sailor of the Year, has been the dominant force with wins at the last World Championship and the two Weymouth events, all in heavier wind conditions.
Goodison agrees the roles are presently reversed. ‘That is definitely fair to say. Last time round I was very focused on my Laser sailing. I medalled at all the regattas I had attended but the key thing was that medal in China.
‘This time round I have been doing other things but I still really wanted to win in the tests events.
‘At Sail for Gold and the Weymouth Test event, both times going into the last (Medal) race I had a chance of winning but Tom came out on top and I guess those conditions seemed to suit his style a bit more than they did mine.
‘I am 80 kilos, so a little bit smaller than some of the other guys. (Slingsby generally sails at around 84-85 kilos.) I guess that’s why I am a bit quicker when it is lighter air and they are a bit quicker when it’s windier.’
Already selected for the London Olympics 2012, Goodison has a different focus to the rest of the Laser fleet heading into Perth 2011.
Slingsby and the rest of the 150 Laser class Olympic aspirants will be fighting for one of 33 Olympic berths.
‘If for me Perth 2011 was still going to be part of the Olympic trials then I was going to try and get up to 85 kilos, which would be the heaviest I have ever been, because I feel that being so windy it is really important to be that big.
‘But my long term goal in trying to win again at the Olympics. I think I sailed the last Olympics at around 80 kilos so I need to train at that weight as I still think there’s a pretty good chance that Weymouth could be in the lighter breeze, as well as the breezy stuff that we seem to see every time we have a test event there.
‘The four month block before the games is very critical for me and it’s important that there are no other distractions so I can fully focus on the Olympics.
‘It’s more about the big picture for sure. If this event was to be part of the Olympic trials then the preparation would be very different.
‘I have addressed where I think the gains can be made for me in the next 12 months and that’s technique based, so we are trying to change things up a bit differently and try new techniques to make me a bit more competitive in the breeze.
‘It’s still really a time for bedding those techniques in, rather than racing flat out. Don’t get me wrong, I will be going out there (racing) to try and win but there are other priorities that will now come a bit higher up the pecking list than they normally would do, if it was a goal regatta.
‘It’s a different stage of the cycle. For me looking back at my own experience I messed up the qualifications for Athens and didn’t qualify until April before the Games and I didn’t feel that the late qualification gave me the necessary time to prepare. I missed out on a bronze by a point, which was obviously devastating.
‘The key for China was to try and qualify early so I had the best chance.
‘For London 2012 I also tried to qualify as early as I could to give myself the best chance and I am lucky enough to have done that. Hopefully I can use the next nine to ten months wisely.
‘For me the main pressure will come from myself.
‘I want to produce my best performance that Olympic week. I am not really bothered where I finish at any other regattas in the four year cycle, as long as I produce my best performance at that one week in the year.
‘There’s big pressure coming from myself, I don’t really don’t think about the external pressures. If I want to do the best I can then it’s down to me and doesn’t really matter, to be honest, who’s asking the questions or putting a camera in my face. That’s all just part and parcel of it. The key for me is to do the best I can.
‘Of course not every regatta goes as planned. I didn’t do so well in Hyeres this year, that was a couple of poor starts and a couple of one-sided beats.
‘But generally by the end of the week, I get better and better. If I start off leading the regatta I win, but if I start off poorly then I generally pull myself back up there and give myself a chance of winning or claiming a medal, come the last day.
‘That for me is one of my big strengths. I can re-focus and get myself back up to where I need to be.
‘Looking back at my worst results, it is almost as if I am a bit too conservative the first couple of days, just trying to make sure I don’t mess it all up. I need to attack a bit more from the start.
‘Perth 2011 is going to be an interesting test for me, it’s been a long time since we have raced, and that was the test event in July. Since then I have made some pretty big changes to my technique and I’ve done some national regattas at home and the changes held up quite well.
‘In technique terms, it’s just very small things that we are focusing on. In some instances it is the exact opposite to what I usually do, which is the hardest thing, because when you put yourself in those situations you have to think ‘I need to do this’ rather than just doing the norm. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for the new approach to become the norm and I don’t have to think about it.
‘It will be interesting to see when there are 10 or 15 really top quality boats around me, if I can stick with the new rather than just switching back to the old.
This event is going to be a true test’ Goodison concluded.
A test indeed, as over on the Australian side of the fence Tom Slingsby will be doing his best to continue his winning ways, looking to hold the mental edge over his British rival and the other 105 or so Laser sailors, and of course to win his fourth Laser World Championship.
An interesting regatta looms ...