It is a remarkable fact in itself that 15-year-old Emma Wilson won windsurfing’s under-17 and under-19 world championship titles in the US in October but when you consider that she did so as one of the event’s youngest competitors, and by what British youth sailing team coach Leo McCallin has described as the widest margin he has ever seen in a competitive race, her achievement seems truly exceptional.
Though for the teenager from Dorset, beating former world champion Marta Maggetti and several other competitors much older than herself was all in a day’s work.
“I have been competing against Marta and the other girls for about two years now and it always seems to be a really tight competition,” she says. “All the girls are really good and a few are full-time athletes so it's pretty tough.”
Emma, meanwhile, is still at school and uses funding from SportsAid to help her meet the cost of her sport. “The support from SportsAid is great,” she says. “It enables me to buy new equipment and warmer wetsuits for the cold training sessions. It's pretty hard to juggle everything but it has worked out quite well. My school is pretty supportive and helps me catch up on work which is good.”
Despite finishing the world championships more than 12 points ahead of her nearest rival, Berenice Mege from France, Emma went into the final race with a slim lead of just two points, which meant whoever won the race that day would win the title.
“I just tried to keep calm and not get distracted,” Emma explains. “My plan for the race was to get a good start, use my speed and work as hard as possible until the end.” And it clearly paid off, because after sailing into an early lead she says she “just didn't look back”.
“When I did look back at the first mark, I couldn't see anyone, I thought I had done something wrong! I ended up winning the medal race by quite a distance which was so cool!
“The conditions were very marginal at the start of the week with about 0-7 knots which was very physical. I just gave everything I had and hoped it would go my way. By day four and five the wind picked up to about 12-15 knots which was so fun, especially in 25 degrees.
"It was probably the toughest competition I have ever done. I've been racing in the under 19 fleet for nearly two years and the girls are so strong. I never thought I would beat them this time last year. Going into the event I wanted to make the medal race and any more was a bonus, but to be honest I always want to win in whatever I do."
British youth sailing team coach Leo McCallin said, "I am very happy with the team's performance at the RS:X Youth Worlds in Clearwater, Florida. It was a tough regatta with a range of conditions spread over 13 races. Emma put together an outstanding series to put herself top of a tight leaderboard going into the medal race. Emma's hard work and dedication to training shone through in the final deciding race, where she dominated from start to finish."
With a winter break ahead, the competitions won’t pick up again for Emma until 2015 when she might find herself competing in the senior world cup and later the European championships in Italy, “but at the moment I'm just trying to catch up with school work and get some good training done in Weymouth,” she says.
To help an aspiring athlete like Emma get where they want to go, text ‘NEXT01 £5’ or ‘NEXT01 £10’ (or as much as you can give) to 70070 to support SportsAid’s work. Find out more at www.sportsaid.org.uk.