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The University of Southampton

World champion Young bidding for golden Rio repeat

Published: 5 August 2016
Alison Young
Alison Young

World Champion sailor, Alison Young, insists, “I’ve got as good a chance as anyone” as her quest for Rio 2016 gold gets underway.

Alison is in Rio as the reigning Laser Radial World Champion after seizing the crown in Mexico in April, making history en route as the first British woman to win Worlds gold in a solo Olympic dinghy event.

The 29-year-old Southampton graduate finished fifth on her Olympic debut at London 2012, but suffered a setback the following year as she was sidelined from competition through illness for 10 months.

But fiercely focused on returning to full fitness, her determination was rewarded with a hard fought silver medal at the 2014 Rio Olympic Test Event, and since then she has not looked back, culminating in her Mexican moment of glory this spring.

Now Young believes her experiences over the last four years have put her in a great position to challenge for the podium in Brazil.

“Winning the Worlds was a good confidence boost to take forwards,” Alison enthused. “To perform under pressure in that environment and to keep it together all the way through a seven-day regatta was good. I was a little bit shocked after I finished my last race, it was like, ‘I’ve won the Worlds, how did that happen?!’ I’ve never stood on the Worlds podium at all before so that it was in the Olympic year is great.

“The last four years there have been plenty of ups and downs. Four years ago I was a lot more naïve and I think I’ve moved forward as a sailor on technical skills and race craft since London, and have a better awareness of how to approach regattas.

“It was a great experience being part of a very successful British team in London. There was some good learning on what the Olympic environment is about, learning how the more experienced members built their campaigns, how hard they worked and taking some of those things forward in my campaign. If I can execute well in Rio and keep the processes and routines in place, I’ve got as good a chance as anyone.”

Alison Young will be competing this year in Rio de Janerio
Alison Young will be competing this year in Rio de Janerio

To prepare for the challenging tidal conditions and unpredictable winds expected inside Guanabara Bay and on the outside ocean courses, each British sailor has spent between 90-150 days in Rio over the past four years.

But Young, who has a First Class Honours degree in Civil Engineering from Southampton (2008), insists she will be embracing the challenge with the same youthful enthusiasm she did growing up on Trimpley Reservoir in Worcestershire.

“I’m just a kid that loves going sailing and stuck at it long enough to get quite good, but also pretty determined and enjoy what I do,” said Alison who competes in the same sailing class as current Southampton student Lily Xu, gold medal-winner at London 2012. “Every race is different. Conditions are always changing and being able to challenge yourself mentally and physically every day is something I really enjoy. On the racecourse I get in the zone and focus on what I need to do in whatever those conditions happen to be.

“I really like Rio; it’s a very challenging venue. There’s a lot of variety in conditions, different sea states, you’ve got tide, shifting breeze, sea breezes, and you’ve got to be adaptable and take each leg of each race one at a time. Keep making good decisions and you will be in a good place at the end of the week.”

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