My best Olympic race – Lijia Xu, London 2012 Laser Radial Medal Race

Lijia Xu

Imagination matters when growing up. Children pictures themselves as their heroes and heroines. From film stars, sporting heroes, astronauts and firemen, the list goes on.

Having a vivid imagination is key and playgrounds and playrooms are transformed into iconic venues such as the Brazilian football stadium, the Maracana and Hollywood’s Red Carpet. As children grow up, the imagination helps to form dreams which can often turn into reality.

However sometimes when you’re about to achieve your dream, it’s important to remember the innocence of a childhood imagination. It seems farfetched that on the eve of a four-way Olympic showdown that a soon to be Queen of Chinese Olympic Sailing did exactly that, imagining herself as an A-list actress, parading in front of the world’s showbiz media on the red carpet of a Hollywood premiere, eyes of the world on her in an attempt to relieve the pressure of Olympic sport. For Lijia Xu, it worked.

Heading into the Laser Radial Medal Race at London 2012 China’s Xu was one of four sailors in with a shot at gold. Out of Xu, Marit Bouwmeester (NED), Evi Van Acker (BEL) and Annalise Murphy (IRL) it was winner take all.

Far from being a perfect race for Xu, it was however, her best Olympic race.

“I meditated and pretended to be an elegant actress with numerous cameras on me,” explained Xu. “I sailed the race in my mind over and over again and I was prepared for the spectators on the Nothe course and lots of cameras.”

As the cameras started to roll each leading contender concentrated on their own efforts as whoever crossed the finish line first would be crowned Olympic champion.

Bouwmeester took the early initiative but it then swayed to Murphy and then to Xu. As Xu looked to take control she was penalised on the first downwind and forced to make a penalty turn, handing the advantage back to Bouwmeester. However, Xu was in the mood and focused solely on what had to be done. She grabbed the lead and held on to cross the finish line to take Olympic glory.

Watch the Medal Race back here –

By Daniel Smith – World Sailing

JPK August 2023
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