Wollmann: I’m not here to make up the numbers
Cecilia Wollmann insists she is not in Rio just to make up the numbers and believes the unpredictable conditions in Guanabara Bay could play to her advantage.
Unlike the majority of her competitors in the Laser Radial class, Wollmann has the freedom to compete without the burden of expectations and believes she can cause a few upsets.
She spent almost a month this year training in Guanabara Bay, the site of the sailing events for the Olympics, and believes the complicated wind shifts will give a few sleepless nights to some of the more experienced campaigners.
“I just want to try and enjoy it and take in the whole Olympic experience,” said Wollmann, who starts her campaign today.
“I don't want to raise my expectations too much and then be super disappointed if it doesn't go well. I want to have at least a couple of good races and stay up with a few people. I don't just want to be here.
“The conditions could be nice for me as there are lots of wind shifts and the current is very different all over the course.
“It's a complicated place and that may stress out some of those hoping to do well and get in their heads a bit.”
Wollmann did online school during her final year at Saltus to allow her to compete overseas and give herself the best possible chance of qualifying for Rio.
The decision paid off with Wollmann, who is being supported by Digicel in her endeavours, placing 40th at the World Cup in Miami in January to become the first local woman sailor to qualify for the Olympics since Paula Lewin.
At just 18 years of age, she is three years younger than Lewin was when she competed at the 1992 Barcelona Games, and may well be Bermuda's youngest Olympian.
“Rio was always on the radar and I knew it was possible, which is why I took a year off from regular school and did it online,” she said. “I knew I had a fighting chance to qualify. Online school enabled me to travel with my laptop, which was quite strange, but meant I was able to stay in Uruguay for two months to prepare [for the qualifiers].
“It was quite hard not seeing my friends every day, but I did come back to Bermuda quite a few times so I could hang out with them.”
Having represented Bermuda at last summer's Pan Am Games in Toronto, finishing twelfth, and tenth in the Byte CII class at the 2014 Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China, Wollmann already has some international experience.
However, she admits the competition in Rio, where she will face the best sailors in the world, will be on a whole different level.
“Most of these guys have been on the circuit for the past six years and I have been able to practise against them during the past year in Rio, “ she said.
“It will definitely be weird competing against the top sailor in every country.
“I'm also super excited about meeting so many great athletes at the Olympic Village.”
Since March, Wollmann has turned her hand to a very different type of sailing after being named in Bermuda's Red Bull Youth America's Cup squad to compete in the Great Sound next summer,
Although the extra training reduced the amount of time she could spend in Rio prior to the Olympics, she believes the fitness she has gained has been a real bonus.
“The Lasers are so physical so I've been working out a lot at Alchemy Fitness [in Hamilton] and doing at lot of group workouts with the Red Bull team,” she said. I think it's been quite helpful as it's always better to be fitter than your competitors.
“I've been in the right place at the right time [for the Youth America's Cup]. It limited the time I spent in Rio but it hasn't been like I haven't been on the water sailing.”