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Emma Wilson: A Year in the Life!

What a year it has been for GB Olympic windsurfer Emma Wilson, in this exclusive interview inspirational Emma allows us to take a peek into the highs and lows of her 2022! From Covid, broken bones, inspiring the next generation, expectations, competitiveness and going with her instincts. Emma's maturity and grace is well beyond her years and at aged just 22 she is a shining light within the sport. Her determination and spirit are to be admired, she always digs that little bit deeper, gives that little bit more, she has that elusive magic that separates her from the rest!

By Emma Nicholson.

I started off asking Emma, what has been the stand out highlight for her this year? She said: "I think it was probably leading the European championships before the medal race by 33 points, this time last year I had no idea how the IQ foil was going to go for me, I was finding it really hard and said to myself I'd commit for the winter and see how it went. Turns out I had loads of fun and really enjoyed it."

"When I first tried windsurfing I didn't really enjoy it, I preferred to get ice cream on the beach whilst my brother went out!"

Emma has achieved some breathtaking results this year, with a second at The Europeans, I asked her to talk us through that competition? Emma said: "Yeah , the Europeans were really cool. I had covid two weeks before, so I hadn't done one of the competitions I wanted to lead into but actually it was probably a good thing because I got two weeks training in Garda prior to the race.

"I had zero expectations for that event, I knew I was pretty fast from training because in Britain we have so many good girls, if you're keeping up in training you're doing pretty well, but no way did I expect to do as well as I did. I have never led a competition by that many points.

"In the end though, it all comes down to the final race, unfortunately I was about a second late off the start which meant I was on the back foot the whole race, I came back to second, but I finished about 10 metres behind first which meant I came second overall. At the time it was really hard to take when I had such a good week, but now I look back at the progress I made and am pretty proud of that week despite the final result."

Emma has an incredible training ethic and achieved fourth at The Worlds, it was such an inspirational achievement - I asked Emma how do you get yourself ready for that type of competition? Emma said: "After the Europeans I had a short break, but actually I was so motivated after that event I think I was back on the water five days later.

"I then set out a plan with my coach about how to do as well as possible at the Worlds. Summer in Portland is pretty perfect for training, as we get pretty much any conditions and also with British sailing set up there the gym, physio etc are all really close. I went on a three week trip to Marseille, but other than that I stayed in Portland the whole time. I got so many hours on the water training with a mixture of the local groms on IQ and the British Sailing Team. I just love being on the water so I think that helps my training a lot."

I asked Emma when she started windsurfing, did she ever think she would be at the top of her sport? An Olympian! Emma said: "When I first tried windsurfing I didn't really enjoy it, I preferred to get ice cream on the beach whilst my brother went out! But I always did sport, I loved most sports and have always wanted to go to the Olympics and win, I just didnt think at the time I would be windsurfing."

Where is Emma's favourite place to windsurf or wing? She said: "Well I'm actually in West OZ at the moment and it's pretty perfect here, I've been on the water every day so far! Maybe for IQ foiling Lanzarote or Lake Garda."

What motivates Emma? "I just want to get the best out of myself, do as much as I can in the sport. I also hate losing... haha!"

"I think the adrenaline masked the pain and I didn't feel like it affected me."

What or Who Inspires Emma? "I'm a big fan of most sports, so when I watch someone performing out of their skin that inspires me. When I was younger watching Kelly Holmes win her Olympic gold inspired me."

What does Emma do to unwind? Is it Winging? "Yeah I do love winging, it's nice because it's not competitive but I still get to be on the water which is what I love. Also going for coffee with friends, baking or playing with my dogs."

What advice would Emma give to young people who have big dreams to become an Olympian? "Just enjoy what you do, if you love it, it's easy to put the time in. And stick to your gut, lots of people will try to tell you how to do your campaign better etc but at the end of the day I think you have to go with your gut."

"I'm really passionate about trying to show people that sport can help so much."

When Emma hits a bump in the road, for example, when she broke her toe just before the competition, how does she find the strength to face those challenges? "Ha yeah, breaking my big toe wasn't ideal preparation. I had convinced myself it was just a bruise but I couldn't windsurf so I went to get a scan to get it double checked. When they told me it was fractured I was like 'cool, but i'm still doing the worlds'.

"I've never broken a bone before that point. I felt like I'd put so much into it I was going to try anyway. I only sailed for two hours in the two weeks before the event which I'd never done before. Once the regatta started we just taped it all up and I got on with it, I think the adrenaline masked the pain and I didn't feel like it affected me.

"It was hard mentally the two weeks before knowing people were training, but I knew I wanted to give it a go and the best way was to try to let it heal as much as I could before so I guess just 'trying' to accept that. My family, friends, coaches supported me a lot leading up to it so I'm really really grateful for that."

What goes through Emma's mind as she approaches the starting line of a competition?

"By the time I'm on the start line I think I'm just making sure I know where I'm going and trying to get a good position on the start line. Hopefully I've done all the training by then and I just try to relax and enjoy it because competing on the water is what I love to do."

How does Emma balance the pressures of being a professional sportsperson? "I guess windsurfing is pretty small so I don't really feel too much pressure, it's more the pressure I put on myself. I really want to do as well as I can in the sport so I guess that motivates me each day."

"I just love being on the water so I think that helps my training a lot."

How does Emma feel about being a role model? "I mean I never thought I'd be a role model, I've always been shy, when I was little I was super shy. I think windsurfing was/is my way of expressing myself. So I'm really passionate about trying to show people that sport can help so much in that way. I just hope I can show that you can have a good time in whatever you're doing but also work really hard."

What does Emma think are the benefits to mental health of being on the water? "I think it's massive, for me personally I'm always so much happier after I've been on the water, there's definitely a sense of freedom, but also the friends you meet along the way are really cool too."

Emma is really passionate about supporting young people who face difficulties in their lives, I have seen how much it means when she connects with them, I asked Emma to describe how it must feel really good to use your achievements to better the lives of those young people? "Yeah I think that's one thing I am really really passionate about , its super inspiring for me to see them challenging themselves on the water at the Official Test Centre (OTC) , and if me speaking to them for five minutes inspires them to carry on and believe they could go to the Olympics or even just enjoy windsurfing as a hobby then I'm all for it!"

And finally! What does 2023 hold for Emma? "Next year is a pretty big year, I'll start training in Lanzarote for Jan , Feb and March and my first competition will be in April in Palma. My main competitions are our worlds in Holland in August and there is an Olympic test event in Marseille where one person from each country will go to, so we have some selections for that at some point throughout the year, I'll try my best for both of them."

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