Alison Young, Team GB's representative in the singlehanded women's Laser Radial class, has often been described as one of the hardest working members of the team. Known for being one of the first in the gym and one of the last out, she had to fight hard for selection in 2012, as the decision went right down to the wire, but for 2016 she was one of the first team members to be announced back in September 2015.
Standing at 5ft 11 and weighing 68kg, Young is one of the tallest in the Radial fleet, as well as one of the fittest, and as the current world champion, you really would expect her to improve on her 2012 result and bring back a medal from Rio.
Where it all started
Alison Young started sailing at the age of eight when her father was given some sailing lessons for his birthday. From GP14s, where she crewed for adults, she moved into the Optimist class and then into Toppers when she was 14 and gained a place with the national squad. Then in 2003 she moved into the Laser Radial, winning a bronze medal at the 2005 Laser Radial worlds.
Having graduated in 2008 with a degree in civil engineering, Ali went full time into sailing and her results improved year by year, from 89th in 2008, to 26th in 2009, 12th in 2010 and seventh in Perth in 2011. In 2010 she was promoted from the Development Squad to the Performance Squad after a flurry of promising results. After her selection for the 2012 Games, she won her first major event, Sail for Gold in Weymouth and finished a respectable fifth.
Since then she has consistently shown podium potential. Her recent results have been encouraging. At the beginning of 2016 she finished fourth in Miami, fifth in the Europeans and fourth in Palma.
Laser Radial world champion
Then came Alison’s impressive performance at the 2016 Laser Radial World Championships, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where she won gold. Her win secured her a place in the history books as she became the first British woman to win a World Championship title in a solo Olympic dinghy class.
Previously, her best World Championship result was fourth. After a hard-fought regatta where the overall lead changed daily, it all came down to just a single point in the end. Young held her nerve to take her third race win of the week in the final race of the regatta, relegating the USA’s Paige Railey into the silver medal position by the narrowest of margins.
“It was pretty tense in that last race!” Alison Young admitted. “I managed to lead all the way round and I was lucky to have done enough overall. I’ve sailed pretty consistently through the week and it’s been super-tight racing all the way through. Going into today, four or five people could have won the Championships, which is the nature of Laser racing. It’s really pleasing to have stayed consistent and kept executing towards what we’ve been working on, and for it all to come through in the end.”
On adding her name to the history books, Alison said: “It’s pretty cool, but we’ve also won Olympic medals in the women’s singlehanded classes in the past so that’s the next target. It’s a great confidence boost, but ultimately this year is about the Games.”
Her feet were obviously still firmly on the ground: “There’s still plenty of room for improvement and I know that come the Games there’s going to be seven or eight girls battling it out hard for the medals so it’ll be a case of executing well come that regatta.”
Learn more about Sailing at the Olympics here. Read our full British sailing medal predictions for 2016 and our guide to the Rio 2016 Olympics.
Alison Young at a glance
World ranking: 4 (at May 31, 2016)
Born: 29/05/87, Wolverhampton
Started sailing: In a GP14 with her father at Trimpley Resevoir aged nine.
Career highs: 2016 Laser world championship 1st; 2016 Hyeres Regatta 3rd; 2015 Princess Sofia Regatta (Palma) 1st; 2014 Sail Melbourne 1st; 2013 Princess Sofia Regatta (Palma) 1st; 2012 Olympic Games 5th (Laser Radial); 2012 Sail for Gold Weymouth 1st; 2005 ISAF Youth Worlds (Laser Radial) 3rd.