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An interview with ILCA 6 sailor Sarah Douglas about her 2024 Olympic Campaign

by David Schmidt 1 Feb 08:00 PST February 1, 2024
ILCA 6 gold for Sarah Douglas (CAN) at 54th Semaine Olympique Française - Toulon Provence Méditerranée © Sailing Energy / Semaine Olympique Française

When it comes to ILCA 6 racing in Canada, the conversation doesn't have much verbal runway before Sarah Douglas's name takes flight. Douglas represented Canada at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, where she finished in sixth place, and she has spent the last three years preparing for the Paris 2024 Olympics, which will be her second Games.

To date, Douglas has earned Canada a country spot on the ILCA 6 starting line at this summer's Olympics, but she first has to cement her selection to the team at the 2024 Princess Sofia Regatta (March 29 to April 6).

Formalities aside, Douglas has been posting some impressive results in the past few years. These include finishing in fifth place at the 2023 Olympic Test Event, winning the ILCA 6 class at the 2023 French Olympic Week, and wining the 2022 Palma World Cup.

I checked in with Douglas, via email, to learn more about her program ahead of this summer's Games.

Can you tell us a bit about how your campaign is going so far? What have been your biggest challenges and rewards?

Like any Olympic campaign, I've had my highs and lows. I've had a couple of break throughs by winning World Cups, but still lack consistency from regatta to regatta. I am fortunate to have some incredible people around me to help guide my program along with financial support from donors, sponsors, and my community.

This quad, I've really stepped up and became CEO of my own program, which comes with pros and cons, but now I have freedom to choose where my energy goes, run multiple meetings a year with my support team, and am really happy of how I've progressed as an athlete and a person.

How does this quad's qualification compare to the Tokyo qualification process, at least so far?

I'm in a similar spot as the Tokyo Olympic qualification. I earned Canada a country spot and now have a large lead after the first trials event. We have the same qualification process for Paris where it's the best Canadian out of the 2024 Worlds and the 2024 Princess Sofia Regatta. I am confident in my selection and now I'm focusing on peaking for Paris.

How have you been structuring your training this quad? Any big differences with the last quad?

This quad we have been focusing on having a more consistent training group and higher quality. I have been training with mostly Europeans and primarily with Norway, Sweden and Finland "we the north".

It's been a lot of flying across to Europe, and to spend time at the Olympic venue. We believe it's worth the jet lag and travel to train in a high-quality group of sailors and coaches, [and] to be pushed on the water every day.

Who have you been working with on the coaching side? Also, how long have you and your coach (or coaches) collaborated?

My sailing coach, Vaughn Harrison, and I have been working together since 2017. In times he hasn't been available, we have worked with other coaches like Nick Thompson and Jesper Stalheim in 2023.

My support team has now grown to seven people. My sailing coach, Vaughn Harrison, strength and conditioning coach, Sheldon Persad, [my] mental performance coach, Rolf Wagschal, [my] physiologist, Ollie Armstrong, [my] nutritionist, Nicole Springle, [my] athletic therapist, Alice Sobiesiak and [my] sports doctor, Dr. Kim Coros.

I am so fortunate to work with experts in their own field to help guide and develop my program towards Paris.

What about training partners? Who have you been sparing against recently?

This quad I have been primarily training with Norway's Line Flem Host, Finland's Monika Mikkola and Sweden's Josefin Olsson, but [I have also] spent some time in Florida training with [the USA's] Erika Reineke at the end of 2023.

In terms of skills, what do you think have been your biggest areas of improvement since Tokyo?

Since Tokyo, my upwind speed has taken a jump along with my downwinds. My downwinds still aren't where I want them to be so, that will continue to be my primary focus.

What do you plan to focus on between now and Palma and/or the Paris Games?

Between now and Palma, I've got two training blocks set up in Mexico and Portugal but now the primary focus is on the Paris games. I will be spending most of my spring and some of summer in Marseille where the sailing will be held for the Olympics. I'm focusing on downwind and strategy/forecasting.

Is there anything else that you'd like to add about your campaign, for the record?

I always just like to thank everyone for the support. Getting to an Olympic Games is a major commitment, both personally and financially, and every bit of support matters. I write a monthly newsletter with more updates on my campaign, which you can subscribe via my website:

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