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CoastWaterSports 2014

Sailing Worlds: A view from the coach boat

by Jo Aleh 14 Aug 2018 13:00 BST 15 August 2018
Courtney Reynolds-Smith / Brianna Reynolds Smith (NZL)- 470 - Hempel Sailing World Championships 2018, Aarhus, Denmark © Sailing Energy

After Rio, three time Olympian and Gold and Silver Medalist Jo Aleh - decided to make a break with sport and take her chances in the corporate world.

It seems instead that she has descended into a Twilight Zone juggling work commitments with coaching

For the full story's complicated.

Here's her take on the just concluded Sailing World Championships at Aarhus, Denmark:

This last week in Denmark I was coaching at the Combined World Sailing Championships, where all the Olympic classes have their World Champs at the same place and time, the second biggest event of the four years after the Olympics. I sailed in the last three of these, and this was my first time as a coach. It was eye opening, I said the same after coaching in Palma, but the added pressure of it being the World Champs, and the difference in perspective you gain as a coach compared to an athlete just widens. I escaped the tunnel vision that I lived in as an athlete. I saw for the first time what goes on behind the scenes, with the coaches and support staff, I experienced the difficulty of watching your athletes struggle with the week and not really being able to turn things around.

As painful as it is when you stuff things up as an athlete, I actually think it can be harder to watch from the sidelines, powerless to change anything, seeing it all happening but not being able to step in and do anything about it. I think this week was also extra hard because I was there watching the 470’s, and sailing that boat is something I still very much know how to do. I have no doubt that I could jump in and be near the front of the fleet, but I also know that I don’t want to… I still feel I have nothing to gain by doing that, there is nothing there I really want to learn, and no reason to go through that experience in that boat again. A certain Dutchman however has decided he has more to learn and is back in his boat! PJ finished third in the Finn after just 2.5 months prep which was just awesome to watch!

For me, for now in the sailing world, I will be sticking with the coaching and not the sailing, who knows what the future will hold, but the next two years are clear… I really enjoyed being a part of the NZL Sailing team again, and bringing something different to the team as not only a very recent athlete, but also a woman. Female coaches are still a rarity – with the 2020 and 2024 Olympics looking to go 50/50 gender split for sailing athletes, wouldn’t it be great if we channeled some of that over to the support structures too. ?? Thats me though, always on some mission!

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