Windsurfer Tom Squires gets on board in Tokyo
As Team GB’s only male windsurfer at the Tokyo Olympics, Tom Squires has some big shoes to fill. His predecessor, Nick Dempsey, was the first man to win 3 Olympic medals for windsurfing: a bronze in Athens and silver medals in London and Rio.
Speaking just days before his first race at the Enoshima Yacht Harbour, the Olympic sailing venue about 50km south of Tokyo, 27-year-old Tom admitted he was still coming to terms with the idea of competing at his first Olympic Games. He said, “The last 12 months seemed to pass really slowly and now things are happening really, really fast. It’s surreal. I just have to stay focussed and not get too stressed.”
Tom, who discovered windsurfing on a family holiday to Cornwall at the age of 11, admits it is disappointing his parents haven’t been permitted to travel to Japan to see him compete. He said, “This is the culmination of a journey they’ve been on with me for years – driving me around the UK in a camper van to get to events. They were really excited about coming to Japan and it would have been a really nice conclusion to it all.”
However, spirits in the house occupied by Tom, Emma Wilson (Team GB’s representative in the women’s windsurfing events), and the rest of the British sailing squad are high. He said, “It’s a really good vibe. We’re ready to go.”
Tom says the support made possible by you, National Lottery players, has played a crucial part in his journey from gardening apprentice to elite windsurfer. He said, “The support means we can windsurf at an elite level. I can train well and travel to the events I need to attend to get into the best state for the Olympics. Without The National Lottery people like me, who come from working class backgrounds, would find it harder to get involved in sailing.”
Between 2013-2017 National Lottery players helped provide £337Million to support Britain’s top sportspeople. By playing The National Lottery they continue to help our athletes access the coaches and training facilities they need to be their best as well as allowing them to focus on their sport by covering travel and living expenses.
The Tokyo Games will be the last time the world’s elite windsurfers will compete using the RS:X, a wide, stable windsurfer fitted with a large sail. Racing at the Paris Olympics in 2024 will take place using the iQFoil, a radical design that rises out of the water thanks to the wing-shaped hydrofoil attached to the underside of the board.
Tom said, “It’s pretty exhilarating. Everyone in the sailing world is excited about hydrofoiling at the moment.”
While the iQFoil and the RS:X can achieve similar top speeds – about 28 knots or just over 32mph – the iQFoil gets up to speed much faster.
Tom admits it has been a little frustrating watching fellow windsurfers hone their skills on the nimble iQFoil, while he continued to train on the RS:X in preparation for the Tokyo Games. Then again, he has real affection for the more traditional board and its big 9.5m 2 sail. He said, “It’s fast enough and I get a real buzz from it. When you’re a kid it was always the dream to get on an RS:X.”
His height – he is 193cm tall, but keeps his weight just below 80kg - gives him a certain advantage over smaller sailors when strong winds are blowing. Tom said, “I can pull the rig over, sheet-in hard and go pretty quick when it’s windy. Lighter winds are my weaker area of sailing, but that’s the point of being a sailor: being able to manage in a range of conditions using a range of techniques.”
At the 1996 Olympic Games, Great Britain and Northern Ireland finished 36th in the medal table with one gold medal. Then in 1997, National Lottery funding for elite sport began. Prior to the Tokyo 2020 Games, we had won 864 Olympic and Paralympic medals and in the last Games in Rio in 2016 we finished in 2nd place. All this is made possible by you, National Lottery players. When you play a little, you help our athletes a lot.
21st July 2021
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