don’t call it a comeback
Having competed in the 2008 Olympics as one of the favourites for a medal in the Finn class, the 2006 World Champion Jonas Høgh Christensen from Denmark went home with nothing, and very disappointed. He didn’t perform well by his standards and on returning home he virtually stopped sailing for a year. But after a little bit of practice the following summer he came back relaxed and fast and beat all the odds to take his second world title on home waters in Vallensbaek, Denmark.
Most people were somewhat stunned by his performance. They had all been training and competing week in week out for a year, while the experienced Dane had done a few weekends of practice…and beat them all. He is now out to defend his world title in San Francisco later this year.
However, this week he is competing in the ISAF Sailing World Cup event at Kieler Woche, his first regatta since 2009. Though Høgh Christensen is back in a Finn for the moment, he is not exactly viewing it as a comeback. "Comeback is a big word. I decided to go to Kiel as it was close to home and didn’t force me to take too much time off from work. I am trying to get to San Francisco but my shipping plans are a bit compromised at the moment. I am working on it and still hope that it will happen. I really want to go. I never really left the Finns, but I have other priorities in life today that makes full time sailing impossible. So don’t call it a comeback. I’ve been here for years."
"Defending a title is something that I have always admired in sports in general. I hope I get to do it. If I push hard in the next two months working on my fitness I might even have a chance of keeping it. But the last year has been hard on my body."
"Since the Gold Cup in Vallenbæk I have done no Finn sailing at all. I have been working hard on my career. I work as a marketing partnership manager for the world’s largest live entertainment company called Live Nation. We do big concerts, festivals and shows all over the world. It is good fun and I get to go to a lot of shows. So I have been sitting in an office all day, going to a lot of parties and concerts at night and have not seen the inside of a gym since last year."
What did he learn from his 2009 world championship win? "I look back at the Gold Cup last year with great memories. Winning on my home ground and as an underdog was very cool. Sometimes the best preparation is not to prepare too much. It gives you freedom to do what you want and focus on the basics. Having a fresh mind and a new perspective was for sure a great lesson."
"I’m not sure if that win gave me the feeling that I should start sailing again, but there is no doubt that you start thinking about your purpose in life. I have had a lot of people telling me that I am wasting my talent, but when it comes down to the end, for me it is about having fun and at the end of my last Olympic campaign the personal costs were too great to have fun and what then happens is that you don’t do well in sailing either. So it was time to bail and do new things."
Does he have his eyes on another Olympic campaign for Weymouth in 2012? "2012 is also a good question. Everybody who has a chance of going to the Games and even winning should give it a try. London is very appealing, but it will be a life changing decision and therefore I need to be motivated. Kiel and the Worlds is my way of figuring out if I want to make that change again. So it is still undecided."
At the conclusion of Kiel Høgh Christensen finished 15th, but was upbeat about his performance.
"After the first day of racing I was in a lot of pain – it was fun but painful. I had to fix the boat so it was up to racing standards and that meant I was the last guy on the water. I managed to make the start with a 1 minute 20 to go. I got a good start and I was second at the windward mark, then I passed the German who was leading and I thought to myself, "If you win this race you better sail in and pack up and wait for the Games, ha ha." Seconds later I tried to gybe in to the mark and rusty as I am I went straight into the soup. When I had righted the boat I was out of energy and in the last third. I decided to wait for the next race to save my energy."
"In the second race I had a bad start but managed to get back to 10th. In the last race I was in the top five at the windward mark but going into the last tack my whole body cramped up and I had to wait head to wind until the cramps had passed. Then I cruised downwind just trying to stay alive. Still, I managed to finish 11th so I am all happy but still in a lot of pain. I need to get fit before San Fran." The 2010 Finn Gold Cup in San Francisco runs from August 27 to September 3. – Robert Deaves.