Hot property Wilson rides Tokyo wave with a little help from friends

Hot property Wilson rides Tokyo wave with a little help from friends

26 June 2020 / 14:38

It's an ill wind that blows nobody any good and windsurfing star Emma Wilson hopes to harness one more year with the help of grounding influences.

The 21-year-old is the new kid on the block in the RS:X class, converting 49th to 4th in three short years at World Championship level and emerging as a Tokyo medal contender. 

Then came the postponement of the Olympics until 2021, leading Wilson to lean heavier on two allies who have the sport running through veins.

They are mum Penny, who represented Team GB in Barcelona and Atlanta in the same event, and coach Barrie Edgington in the midst of his eighth Olympic campaign. 

“Being in a single-handed class is a lonely place at times,” said Wilson, who has medalled at back-to-back European Championships.

“It’s doubly hard for me to find people to train with as RS:X has been dropped as the equipment from Tokyo onwards, so most have already moved over to foiling. 

“When you’re feeling a bit isolated it’s great to have people to bounce things off and give you that reassurance. 

“Mum and I always chat about stuff and occasionally the Olympics comes up! I wouldn’t be here without her in any sense. 

“Dealing with the postponement was pretty hard and while no-one has ever experienced it, she understands the athlete’s perspective and that’s rare.

“Barrie is so passionate about me doing well and that’s the number one thing you want to see in your coach as an athlete. We get on well and have a good laugh.

“He was by my side at the Test Event last year – he’s been to millions of them and it was my first one so I’ve loved soaking up his experience.”

Rather than arresting momentum, an extra year’s preparation should give Wilson time to further ruffle the feathers of senior figures in the RS:X fleet.

The Nottingham native points to the fact reigning Olympic champion Charline Picon will be 36 next year and world champion Lilian De Geus is in her late 20s. 

Wilson spent time with De Geus in Vilamoura, Portugal last year and beating the flying Dutchwoman in a training race gave her no end of confidence.

“It was the first time I’d beaten all of them at senior level and it was massive for my self-belief,” she said.

“It took five years of me getting beaten to a pulp in the fleet to feel like I belonged.

“I’m seeing it as another year to work on things. The likes of Lilian and Charline have been around for a long time and are probably thinking about moving on or at least moving over to foiling.

“I was knocking on the door all of last year and I feel like my time to win medals will come.” 

Wilson has been locked down in Christchurch, Dorset in a house overlooking the ocean – a sailor’s idea of torture – until she was allowed out on the water in May.

She drew up a punishing fitness schedule of ten sessions a week, finding time to hone her baking in between. She now makes a mean carrot cake and is in better shape than ever.

Wilson is the opposite of a morning person but the thought of rivals gaining an inch gave her sleepless nights. 

“I hated seeing videos of the Dutch and Chinese training,” she said.

“It felt so heavy and really rusty on my first day but it was all about getting out there and getting that feel back.

“Even it was just a jog, it was something I could do to build towards winning an Olympic medal. That’s what motivates me, trying to win a gold medal.

“I hate getting up in the morning but I knew my rivals are out there and I’ve got catching up to do.”

Sportsbeat 2020