Nick Dempsey begins his campaign to become the most successful men’s Olympic windsurfer of all time as the Rio 2016 sailing regatta gets underway today (August 8).
In what is set to be his fifth and final Games, RS:X Men’s gold on Guanabara Bay would see Dempsey complete the full set of Olympic medals, a feat never achieved by any other windsurfer since the discipline’s introduction for men in 1984.
The Peterborough-raised star who learned to windsurf at Ferry Meadows made his Olympic debut aged 19 at Sydney 2000, where he finished 16th, before he made history in Athens four years later in becoming the first Brit to ever win a windsurfing Olympic medal when taking bronze.
After the bitter disappointment of fourth place at Beijing 2008, Dempsey bounced back in style winning silver at London 2012. Now the Weymouth-based dad of two has his eye on a golden Olympic swansong.
He said: “It would be amazing to win a gold medal, just get it, put it away, forget about it and move on, that is what I’d like to do, it would be a pretty good way to close my Olympic career.
“Going to five Olympics is something I’m very proud of. I never thought I was going to end up going to five Olympic Games. I never planned this.
“As you get older you understand it is just windsurfing, but I’m still as determined, just more balanced. It doesn’t mean I’m not putting an awful lot into trying to win.”
The two-time World Champion is Britain’s most experienced Olympic sailor in Rio. He celebrates his 36th birthday on Saturday 13 August, the day before he will hopefully line in up in the RS:X medal race showdown, with the podium in his sights.
After the disappointment of finishing outside the top 10 at the Rio Test Event and World Championships in 2015, Dempsey has shown a return to form when it counts, including two 2016 Sailing World Cup medals in Miami and Hyeres while narrowly missing out on adding to his silverware tally with fourth at this year’s Worlds.
Now Dempsey believes the challenging conditions the sailors have prepared for in Rio means he has as good a chance as anyone of winning the ultimate prize.
He added: “Gold for me in Rio is very realistic. Last year I sailed awfully but I’m saving my win for the Games. I’m not dominant in the class, nobody is dominant in the class, it is wide open, it is incredibly hard, the hardest it has ever been.
“The Rio racecourse is challenging, it is really difficult. It is a racecourse where it is very difficult to manage risk because people separate so much, the current is a little bit tricky, the wind is really tricky and really unstable and very hard to predict.
“The person that wins will be the person that gets their head around the shifts and manages that risk best and starts the best on each race. There are probably six sailors that can win. I could win, I might finish sixth but I could win, definitely, 100%.”
The RS:X class is scheduled to contest a 13 race series, with three races today, tomorrow, Thursday and Friday before the final one-off medal race on Sunday (August 14).