The Youth Olympic Games is an international, multi-sport event held in conjunction with the International Olympic Committee that will take place every four years, consistent with the current format of the Olympic Games. This year, some 3,600 athletes, ages 14 to 18 and from 205 countries will compete in the 26 sports that will be featured at the 2012 Olympic Games. Per the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) qualification system for the sport of sailing, eligible athletes must have been born between January 1, 1994 and December 31, 1995.
Samson and Stokes qualified for the team at the 2010 Calema Midwinter Windsurfing Festival, where they were the highest finishing American male and female. The regatta was held in March in Merritt Island, Florida.
These two athletes have been training and competing under the watchful eye of Britt Viehman, who will also serve as Team Leader and Coach in Singapore. Viehman has been coaching Samson for the past two years and Stokes for the last year. He owns the North Beach Windsurfing School in Florida and has more than 12 years of windsurfing and teaching experience.
Samson, 16, first started windsurfing two years ago when her father introduced her to the sport, and she has been on a fast track ever since. Her competitive spirit, hard work and determination have propelled her from being a novice to a competitive player on the youth windsurfing circuit. Samson has pushed herself to be on par with her competitors in a short amount of time: She trains on the water three times a week with her team, practicing necessary skills such as transitioning, tacking and gybing and boat speed.
Succeeding at windsurfing takes more than just drills: It requires strong core strength and balance, as well as athleticism and agility, and Samson recognizes what it takes to be at the top of the game. She hits the gym six days a week for physical training sessions to improve her fitness. Two years ago, she struggled to do one push-up, but according to Viehman, "now she just cranks them out."
Qualifying to represent the Unites States at the Youth Olympic Games is by far, her greatest achievement in her athletic career, and she hopes it will be the first step in her Olympic aspirations.
"It's a big deal," said Samson. "Watching the Olympics on television has always been a great inspiration. It's an honour to be a part of it. We're breaking new ground with the first ever Youth Olympic Games, and I'm so looking forward to the experience!"
For Stokes, 15, sailing in his blood: He grew up on the water in a family of avid competitive sailors. He quickly rose in the ranks of youth sailing, and by the age of 12, he dominated the Optimist class, a popular boat for junior sailors. He held the national champion title in 2007, in addition to winning several regional championships across the United States. When he grew out of the Optimist, he set his sights on a new challenge -- windsurfing.
While he has only windsurfed competitively for the last year, he was able to apply his strong sailing skills to a new type of water sport. Coach Viehman says Stokes has innate talent, and he understands the game very well. "He also performs well under pressure," said Viehman, which will help him succeed internationally where the stakes are even higher. Staying focused is also a key skill for athletes competing in a sport dictated by wind and weather conditions, and Stokes is able to find the figurative "light switch" to turn on when it's race time.
Stokes windsurfs every day for at least three hours, practicing drills and boat speed. He also travels to Clearwater, Fla., to train with a youth windsurfing team coached by Viehman. He works out in the gym every day as well, mixing up cardio with weight training.
"The Youth Olympic Games is a great opportunity to make lifelong friendships and gain character as well as athletic skill," said Stokes. "This is why I am stoked to be given the opportunity to compete in such a cool event."
Visit our Youth Olympic Games microsite at www.sailing.org/yog