We are getting closer by the day to the beginning of our Olympic Team Selection Process for the 2012 Olympic Games, and the intensity is definitely heating up. But the intensity and focus is different than anything we have seen before. Here’s how…
Our old system was a single-event, week-long, winner-take-all selection. Under this system, some sailors would continue to train internationally and to compete the world over with comparatively little time spent at the U.S. trials location. Other Americans would simply ensconce themselves in the trials location and try to master that one location. The first approach was based on a focus to succeed at the Games, with the Trials merely a step in the process. The second approach was based on a focus to win the Trials, with the Games an afterthought.
The change was based on the decision of the Olympic Sailing Committee that we now wanted to choose our Olympians based on how they would fare internationally, rather than how they might fare in a much smaller event against only other Americans. The world of Olympic Sailing had changed and we needed to change with it.
Sentimentalists have argued that we have eliminated the chance of that surprise result, that “upset” outcome. They have argued that we have made it impossible for the bootstrap campaign to run a comparatively low-budget effort to win the Trials. These sentimentalists, at least in this regard, are correct. We have made that “upset” outcome more unlikely.
What we have created is a system that requires a broader skill set, and a more flexible approach. Sailors now have to focus on multiple locations, with multiple common weather patterns. Sailors now can’t spend months and months gaining or losing weight for the weather probabilities of one trials site. They need to be able to perform over multiple months in Miami, Palma, Hyeres, Medemblik, Weymouth and Perth. That’s a lot of sailing with a whole range of new influences.
Finally, not only does this new system prevent our sailors from focusing on one single location, it also prevents them focusing exclusively on each other. Under the old system, with small US-only fleets, our sailors cold focus on a very small number of likely serious competitors, and in some fleets the trials might turn into a match race scenario.
This new system introduces a whole new set of issues, and it requires focus on more variables, more locations and more competitors. It’s exciting, and it is ON. I for one can’t wait to see how this plays out over the next few months.
For additional details about the selection procedures for the 2012 Olympic Team - Sailing, please visit http://sailingteams.ussailing.org/Games/Olympics/Selection.htm.
Chairman, Olympic Sailing Committee
Excerpted from May 2011 "The Medalist"