In February 2014 I began competitive sailing, it was during this time that I discovered my love for spending time on the water with my friends learning how to make our boats go fast and in the right direction. At my first nationals 10 weeks later, I came 109th and came away eager to improve and see how good I could get. 12 months later I was now 35th in New Zealand and 10th Female.

It was at this point I had a dream. A dream to represent New Zealand at the youth worlds and then the Olympics, the two pinnacle events of dingy sailing. Therefore, I moved into the Laser Radial, the youth and women’s Olympic class. Putting in the hard work, I saw my results improve and in 2017 was selected into the Radial Women’s Squad focusing on developing sailors for the 2020 and 2024 Olympics. This provided me with the platform to further grow as a sailor competing at my first overseas regatta where I placed 29th at the radial U19 worlds and 79th at the radial women’s worlds. It was at this point I chose to specialize in the one sport.

October last year I competed at the Yachting New Zealand Youth trials where I placed 3rd overall, 1st female, thus winning the female spot and consequent selection to represent New Zealand at the 2018 Youth Worlds in Sanya, China. This was a huge achievement given the level of competition and conditions over the week and I was stoked to reach my goal I had been working towards over the last two years.

Little did I know my work had only just begun. I then had 10 weeks of intense training before I left for the worlds. Putting in all the time I could while juggling my final school exams I was proud to finish 5th at the Youth Worlds in the laser radial class. This would have to be my greatest achievement to date, being the best placed New Zealander at this event for the last 10 years.

After being immersed in this atmosphere at the worlds, its ignited my real dream of gaining an Olympic medal. Therefore over the New Zealand summer I have been working hard to now be ranked 4th overall, 2nd senior women and 1st U21 female in New Zealand in the radial. With big ambitions and a determination to reach my goals I have a long, hard but enjoyable road ahead. This is beginning with my international events this year of Europeans in May and the combined Olympic worlds in Aarhus during July/August.

I am extremely grateful to the support from Bobby Stafford-Bush Foundation in helping me attend these events, enabling me to continue my road to Olympic success.

By Benjamin J Melvillejames-preston