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6 August 2008, 11:00 am
Jonas Hoegh-Christensen: Finn World #1 on his Olympic dream
Jonas Hoegh Christensen competing in Athens
Jonas Hoegh Christensen competing in Athens

2008 Beijing Olympic Games

For the last seven years Jonas Hoegh-Christensen (DEN) has had one goal in mind - winning an Olympic medal in his Finn.
Three years after entering the class in 2001 he finished ninth in Athens, but he continued to improve and two years ago won the Finn Gold Cup - the class's world championship - and reached the top of the ISAF World Rankings. He has remained firmly in the #1 spot ever since.

However, despite this record breaking stint at the top he has only won two other major ranking regattas in that time. But this doesn't seem to have phased the single-minded Dane at all, as he makes his final preparation to do battle in Qingdao.

"I have won a couple [of major regattas] in the last two years, but yes, taking into consideration my ranking I might not have won enough regattas. But I am consistent. I rarely finish outside the top four. I don't think anyone that has done the events that I have has been that consistent. I think I have earned myself a spot in Finn history as I am sure no one has ever stayed on top for that long."

"For me, this is the culmination of a seven year campaign. I think winning an Olympic medal is also a defining moment of your life so I think it would be one of life's greatest moments. It would be a personal victory that would have a positive effect on any plans for the future too."

Jonas HOEGH-CHRISTENSEN is one of the many sailors in Qingdao who have lost weight in the run up to the Games. He said "I think it is needed to have the best chance of winning a medal." Jonas actually lost 12 kg in weight and is now down to 93kg, which is on the lighter end of the Finn weight scales. "To do that, I did a lot of running, biking and cross training. Besides that I have just done my usual training in the gym to keep strong."

As far as the boat was concerned, "I have had a speed job done to the bottom. The boat was brand new when I shipped it to China, so that was a bit of a risk. To be safe I shipped my 2004 Games boat too. My mast is very different than any others. I think it is the stiffest mast in the world. I have also tested a lot of new sails and concepts and four masts. The testing went well so hopefully that has given me a bit more speed."

Any last minute changes? "No changes. I was in the fortunate situation that the gear I have been using lately has been very fast. My only problem was that I had three masts that where all good to choose from. But the decision was made weeks ago and I am sticking to it."

"I get a good bit of funding from the Danish sporting association and sailing federation. Besides that I have had great personal sponsors that have helped make it possible to compete at the very highest level. When it comes to the Games we also have had help from the Danish weather services that have made a special deal with the Chinese oceanic department to get a high resolution prediction of the current we will face during the Games."

"We have done four weeks of training here in June and July so far and we also did a bit of teambuilding with the Danish sailors from other classes. Besides that I have tried to kick back and have some fun and relaxation time."

"I went home on July 19 after our second trip to China. In the 12 days I had at home I mostly just relaxed. The first four days I went to a holiday resort in Denmark with some friends and kicked back and went out. I have played more golf then than in the last two years. Besides that I enjoyed the summer in Denmark and spent a lot of time with my friends." Jonas flew back out to Qingdao on 1 August to make final preparations and conclude his training. He has to get his equipment measured on the sixth so everything has to be ready by then.

Being a very friendly and co-operative class there have been many sailors in Qingdao in recent weeks to train against. "My main training partner has been Zach Railey. Zach is fast in the light winds that can be expected and a talented new sailor. I think he is one of the guys for the future. Kenneth, his coach, is Danish and actually my old Opti coach from when I was 12 years old. So I have known him for most of my life and he has had a significant role in me becoming the sailor I am today. So teaming up with them has been very natural. Besides that the Polish, Spanish, Kiwis, Canadians and anybody else who has been around has trained with me and me with them. That's the good thing about the Finn class, besides the Brits, everybody can train with everybody, the atmosphere is always friendly and we still manage to keep the competition fierce.

"Everybody here is faced with the same conditions. The only way to look at it is to try and get the best out of it. We, my coach and I, made a plan very early, so whenever we had conditions similar to what we can expect in China we have tested something new. I think everybody feels nervous before a big event like the Games. But for me a feeling of excitement is the most dominant feeling. If I have prepared as well as I have for this event I also have a feeling of confidence, but that also gives a bit of extra tension as there are no excuses for a bad result. But I do look very much forward to it. I try to focus on the training and make sure I run my routines, but I also think it is crucial to have a lot of fun. When it comes to the pressure from the media I think I always put the most pressure on myself so that doesn't really affect me."

Seven years is a long time for anyone to dedicate to achieving one goal, but Jonas explains that for him it has been a fun and rewarding journey. "The enjoyment of sailing and the Finn class keeps me going. I just can't help it. I love sailing. But it does have huge costs on the personal side. Not a lot of time for girlfriend, family and friends. I do see the new young guys and see myself five years ago, so full of energy and inspiration. I think that is cool."

If all goes to plan, by a week on Saturday, it will all be over for the Finns. As the first class to start, they will also be the first class to finish. "Ben AINSLIE [(GBR)] is of course the main contender. Anything but gold for him would be a catastrophe. He is a very complete sailor and makes very few mistakes. He will be hard to beat. Besides that I think there are four or five guys with high possibility of taking a medal and another six or seven guys that can do it too if they have a good regatta. This shows that the class is very deep at the top level and will make for an exciting Games. I think the race for the medals will most likely will be between myself, Ben, Rafa [Rafa TRUJILLO VILLAR (ESP)], Ivan [Ivan KLJAKOVIC GASPIC (CRO)] and Dan [Dan SLATER (NZL)], maybe even Daniel [Daniel BIRGMARK SWE)]."

And what are Jonas's plans for the future? A third Olympic campaign?

"I don't know yet. My plan is certainly to cut back on sailing quite a bit. I think it depends a bit on the result and the offers that come with it. I do have a feeling that I need to try something new for a while, get some new inspiration and input from new things in life. Maybe in a couple of years I might do another campaign, but as I have become one of the more experienced sailors I don't think I have the stamina to do another four year campaign. But if the Finn stays Olympic, as I expect and think would be the best for Olympic sailing, the Finn would be the class to go in for 2012.

"I think that tactical sailing is where the greatest sailing exists. With the faster classes the manoeuvres becomes so important and costly that they outshine the tactics. They might look more flash on a picture but I don't think that is what makes sailing what it is today. Also I think it has been proven lately that it is actually more exciting to watch the more tactical boats as the racing is much closer."
Robert Deaves
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