Medal in Sight
Photography courtesy of the U.S. Sailing Team
By Lena Anthony
Volume 146, Number 4, July/August 2012, Page 6
For her second Olympic Games appearance, Amanda Clark wants only one thing: a medal. It’s an ambitious goal for the sailor, who started training with a new partner just three months before the Olympic Trials began in 2011. But it’s a dream she hopes to make a reality this August, when Mrs. Clark’s Team GO SAIL will represent the United States in the women’s 470 sailing event at the London 2012 Games. (The event is named for the boat—the two-person International 470, which measures 4.7 meters long.)
Mrs. Clark found a shared determination and drive in her partner, Sarah Lihan. The past year has pulled Mrs. Clark away from home and her husband, Greg, for long stretches of time so Team GO SAIL could participate in worldwide sailing events and log grueling training sessions on the water.
When the team isn’t training together (Mrs. Clark lives in Shelter Island, N.Y., while Ms. Lihan resides in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), its members are getting stronger on their own. Every day they lift weights for two hours and do cardio exercises for another hour.
“When it’s light air, sailing is about balance, flexibility and patience,” Mrs. Clark explains of the sport. “But when it’s windy, it’s more about physical strength and endurance. And athletes who are in better shape have an advantage.”
All of the tough training has been done with that Olympic goal in mind: “We want to prove to ourselves and also to the world that we have what it takes,” says Mrs. Clark, who has been sailing since she was 5 years old. “If things continue to go well, we could really be in the running [for a medal], which is crazy to think about, since we’ve only been sailing together about a year.”
Mrs. Clark has envisioned winning an Olympic medal since she was a teenager. “As a family we watched the Olympics on TV. It was the only TV we were allowed to watch, so it was a big deal to me,” she says. “When I was in my early teens, I started to make the connection that it was something I could do.”
At the age of 15, Mrs. Clark became the youngest woman to qualify for the U.S. Sailing Team. She went on to perform well in two Olympic Trials—in 2000 and again in 2004—but fell just short of the top ranking needed to qualify for the Olympics.
Mrs. Clark made her first Olympic appearance at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, China, where her team finished 12th in the women’s 470 event.
She says being an Olympic athlete is the experience of a lifetime. “It spans a whole bunch of emotions,” she says. “It is just amazing when all of your goals come together. And then competing in the Olympics—something that brings the whole world together on such a positive note—is absolutely incredible.”
Mrs. Clark says she feels great patriotism as an Olympic athlete representing the United States. “Modern patriotism expresses itself in a variety of ways,” says the member of Shelter Island Chapter, Shelter Island, N.Y. “Being an athlete is just one aspect of expressing loyalty to the country.”
No matter the results of the London Games, Mrs. Clark looks forward to spending some downtime at home this fall. “I hope to be able to share my experiences with my community and other DAR members,” she says. Fans can follow the team and chart its progress at www.teamgosail.org.