I am so happy to report the really great news that I have now qualified for both the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and the Pan Am Games to be held in Toronto Canada, July 2015.
My summer training for the World Championships peaked in Canada where I won CORK (Canadian Olympic Regatta of Kingston.) From there I headed off to the World Championships in Santander, Spain. In my event, the Laser, there were 147 competitors from 72 countries. All of the top sailors and nations were there and we all knew that only 23 countries could win an Olympic berth at this first of the qualifying regattas. I cannot tell you how proud I was to qualify the US Virgin Islands as one of those Olympic countries to make it. And, indeed, the USVI was not only the smallest country to qualify, but we were the only small country to qualify!
But now the challenge is really clear…. and now I really need your help! Because we are such a small place there is not the same support for Olympic athletes as would be available for a sailor sailing for the US, or UK or China or some other major country, or indeed other countries where the government supports their Olympic team members and sports. But to continue to improve my standings and to continue to race and win against these sailors I must compete with them in the same events, I must race with the same quality of equipment and sails, I must get the same quality of coaching. And all of this takes money. And that money I must raise from friends and supporters like you, if the Virgin Islands and I are to have a chance to achieve my goal, which is to race at the medal race in Rio, with the potential to medal and show the world what we can do!
I have developed a training schedule for the next 12 months, which will lead me right up to the European World Cup Circuit followed by World Cup events in China and Australia. It takes me to the major regattas where I will race against the best in the world. It takes me to Brazil where I will race on the Olympic course.
It requires me to have a boat in Brazil, one in Europe and one in the US. Proper funding also allows me to train with the best equipment and have extras when necessary. It requires the resources for housing, food, coaching and personal trainer to track my overall fitness. Most of my travel has been covered by a generous gift, but all of the other necessities must be funded if I am to be ready for the Pan Americans 2015 and the 2016 Olympics. I need your help.
Tax-deductible contributions can be made directly through the Virgin Islands Sports Trust a 501(c)(3) U.S. Virgin Islands Charitable Trust (with my name in the memo field) to this address:
VIRGIN ISLANDS SPORTS TRUST
PO Box 502008
St. Thomas, VI 00805-2008
We are also looking for four title sponsors who will be willing to make contributions of at least $15,000 for the remaining of 2014 and 2015.
In-kind contributions can consist of new racing sails, spars, gear and the purchase of two complete lasers each of which will cost $7,000.
A budget that includes all the training camps and the regattas that I need to attend in 2015 is available upon request. None of this can be accomplished without funding. I hope you will sail the route to Rio along with me. I am available to answer any questions you may have.
I guess it can be said that I was born to be a sailor. My grandfather, Rudy Thompson, sailed into the St Thomas Harbor in 1950. He and my Dad were among the top sailors in the Virgin Islands, and for many years my Mom raced with them. They were all stalwarts of the St. Thomas Yacht Club and well known throughout the Caribbean. And so when I came into the picture on July 1, 1988 it was an unstated assumption that I, too, would take to the water at a young age. I did, I loved it then — and I love it now.
By the age of five, I was actively sailing my Optimist in the cool trades off the St. Thomas Yacht Club. At nine, I would go on to win the White Fleet and finish 12th overall at the US Optimist Nationals in Gulfport, Mississippi. I was part of a group of young and upcoming sailors racing for the US Virgin Islands who were taught and trained to believe there was no race we couldn’t compete in and — if we did our best — win. For the next five years I am happy to report I won a lot of Opti races.
After my 14th birthday I moved up to the Laser Radial class. I liked the boat and it seemed to like me. In 2005 I won the US Sailing Youth Championship and then went on to a 6th place finish at the Volvo Youth Worlds in South Korea. Perhaps my proudest moment came the next year when, in 2006, I won the Gold Medal in the Laser Class at the 2006 Caribbean & Central American Games in Colombia. This was the only Gold Medal won by the US Virgin Islands at these Games.
Beginning in my sophomore year in high school, I sailed on the Antilles School Sailing Team. We were building the team and in my Senior Year we won both the Fleet and Team Racing National Championship titles. Antilles’ sailors are heavily recruited for college sailing teams and I was happy to have the chance to keep sailing at that next level. I chose to attend Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island. It was what my college counselor would call “a good fit.” I just graduated this past May, with a major in Communications and a minor in Marketing. I am pleased that my sailing career at RWU was marked by many firsts for me, my Team and the school: first Single-handed National Champion, first Team Racing National Champion, first Male Athlete of the Year in Sailing (twice), first All-American (3 times), first NEISA Sailor of the Year, and first ICSA College Sailor of the Year finalist.
I had always, since I was a child, wanted to compete in the Olympic Games and I believed the Laser would provide a pathway for me to achieve that goal. The Laser is a single-handed racing dinghy, an Olympic class boat that rewards athleticism, subtle steering and trimming techniques, as well as tactical excellence. This is the boat I had raced for the last eight years. So right after graduating from college, I embarked on a rigorous 5-month training and racing schedule with the only ambition of qualifying for London 2012 Games (I Had already been selected as the US Virgin Islands representative in January 2011 but still needed to qualify the country). The first of the Olympic qualifying regattas (of which there were only two), held in Perth Australia in December of 2011 would qualify seventy-five percent of the countries that would compete in London. I needed to be one of those countries.
I trained hard, hired a sailing coach, surrounded myself with an enthusiastic and extremely competitive and talented group of sailors and I spent a month in Australia to prepare for the ISAF Worlds…….and I MADE IT! I qualified the first time around. Now that I was Olympic-bound, I spent the next five months training, traveling and racing. In less than a year’s preparation, I placed 25th out of 49 sailors in London 2012 Olympic Games. While this may not have seemed like a decent finish, I was competing against sailors that had been participating in their 2nd and/or 3rd Games and first-time Olympians that had been training for the past 3 to 4 years.
I have had time to think since I came back from London and I made the calculated decision to pursue another Olympic Campaign for Rio 2016. I learned from my experience in London what is expected of me as an athlete and what is required in order to win a medal. After a few months off to regroup and to relocate in order to maximize training and racing, I am back in action. I will compete in my first laser regatta of the season in July, followed by more events and training sessions, culminating with the Laser Worlds in Oman in November. During the Winter, Spring and Summer of 2014, I will alternate between training sessions and regattas to prepare for Rio 2016 Olympic Qualifier which will be held in Spain in September of 2014. Fifty (50%) of the countries will be selected at that event and my goal is to be one of them.
None of this can be achieved on my own. My personal funds are not enough to cover all of my expenses. Sailors always find a way to save on accommodations by rooming with others when traveling but costs for coaching, training, equipment, airfare and boat charters are out of my reach and I need to cast a much wider net in hopes of garnering corporate support for my Olympic quest.
Please join me and let us work together towards qualifying the US Virgin Islands in the One-Person Dinghy (the Laser) for RIO 2016.