The wait is over and three SA sailors board their plane to Rio de Janeiro on Friday to begin their quest for Olympic glory.
Asenathi Jim, Roger Hudson and Stefano Marcia are as ready as they’ll ever be and, speaking at the Team SA farewell banquet last week, said everything is in place to take to the water in Rio come the second week of August.
For the 470 team of Jim and Hudson, arrival in Rio will mean a reunion with their beloved boat, Graceland, which they purchased with funds provided by the National Lotteries Commission and left in South America after the World Championships in Argentina earlier this year.
‘We’ve been to Rio twice for training and sailed the boat there – she’s a really cool lady. Her name is Graceland,’ explained Jim.
‘We love the album and the story behind the album. It was an unlikely collaboration and I like how those musicians – Paul Simon and Ladysmith Black Mambazo – made the album happen even when it wasn’t really allowed to happen. It’s beautiful. It’s a beautiful collaboration of two different kinds of music,’ added Hudson – hinting at his unlikely collaboration with Jim, who grew up in a Port Elizabeth township.
The two teammates, and now good friends, have spent a lot of their time in Europe for training and competition listening to the album. ‘When we learnt about the history of the album and went into it a bit deeper, we found it really appealing and decided to call our next boat Graceland and that’s the one we’ll be taking to the Games,’ said Hudson.
This will be the 470 pair’s second Olympics together. ‘It’s been four years of hard work since London and this is what we’ve been working for so I’m really looking forward to it. It’s interesting times looking ahead, exciting times,’ said Jim.
Much has been said about the poor quality of the water in Rio but Jim reckons that’s not something they’ll be focusing on.’For sure you get worried about these things but we’ve been there and here I am a 100% healthy. We’ve done two camps there and there is for sure a problem with the water – it’s not clean but we’re both not sick so we’re more interested in the completion than worrying about getting sick. That’s not our priority,’ he said.
‘We once crashed into something massive and thought we might have damaged our boat but it was OK. You definitely get to see some nasty stuff floating in the water. There’s dead fish – and so much nasty stuff that I can’t even mention but like I said that’s not the priority.
‘We’re not looking back on our goals. Top 10 is our goal and so we have to pursue what we want. Even better than that would be great, but we’re just working step by step to achieve our goal,’ said Jim.
Hudson added: ‘We’ve made real, clear progress towards our goal of a top 10 finish. I really believe in our potential and if we sail to our potential I think we can produce a really good result – and we’d love to spring a really big surprise. It’s all about being in the best possible condition in that week and we’ve done so much to get ourselves ready for that.’
Meanwhile, Marcia is readying himself for his first Olympic Games. ‘I’m feeling very excited but nervous at the same time. It’s a scary experience going to the Olympics for the first time,’ he admitted.
As he’s sailing in the Laser class, Marcia will only see the boat he’ll be competing in when he arrives in Rio. ‘With the Laser class, we use chartered boats from the factory so the boats arrived in Rio two weeks ago and when I get there I’ll get the allocated boat that’s been drawn out for me.
‘There will be a lot of preparation because often the boats aren’t made that well – there are a few things that are a bit out on the boats so we have to try and fine tune. I should have five days with the boat before we start racing so that should be more than enough time to fine tune it.’
Sailing gets underway in Guanabara Bay on 8 August with the competition coming to an end on 18 August.
In the picture are Team SA’s Olympic sailing manager/coach Brevan Thompson, Asenathi Jim and Roger Hudson (470), Stefano Marcia (Laser).