Britain's Nick Thompson has just won the Laser worlds, his second world title in the Olympic class. It might be his second title, but Nick Thompson is hardly a household name, and yet the possibility that he might be one of our Olympic golden boys at this year's Olympic Games in Rio looks more and more likely.
The 2016 Laser world title win
Nick Thompson admitted he was ‘elated’ to capture a second consecutive World Championship crown.
He clinched victory by 12 points over French rival Jean Baptiste Bernaz to add a second world title to his maiden victory in 2015, having led the seven-day regatta from the outset.
“It was a pretty tricky event,” Thompson explained. “We managed to get all the races in and I was leading from day one and so I was a little bit stressed with that, being the defending World Champion. But I’m over the moon to have finished on top.”
Thompson got his regatta off to a flying start, picking up two race wins on the first day of the event, and never looked back. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling a little bit of extra pressure on me,” the Rio-bound sailor continued. “It’s something I try not to think about at all but I really tried very hard just to focus on each race. I kind of knew that we were going to get most of the race in so it was going to be a long old slog. Once I nailed the double bullet I was like ‘oh blimey, the pressure is definitely on me’. But I think I managed to cope with it pretty well.”
In spite of Thompson taking a 19 point lead into the final day, the last two races provided a tough test for the 30-year-old, who had to discard a 41st in the first race of the day before sealing victory with a ninth place in the final race. “I actually sailed a good first race up until the second beat where I was in the position I needed to be in and there was a big shift which let JB, the French guy, go from nearly last to top five at the next mark. Suddenly it was all back on again and I was on the other side of the course having lost quite a few places. That was really frustrating, but I regrouped and focused on the next one.”
Thompson takes great confidence from this latest triumph as he heads towards his first Olympic Games, but is not about to take his foot off the gas in his quest for the Rio podium. “It’s pleasing to have done this because it shows we’re moving in the right direction and the things I’ve been needing to work on have been covered. Rio’s a very tricky venue and is different to what we’ve had here so I think there’s still some work to do, but pretty much I just need to maintain the hard work we’ve done already and I think we should be in a good place.”
Chasing the Olympic dream
This might be Nick Thompson's first Olympic Games, but he's hardly new to sailing the Laser at the top level. He pushed Paul Goodison hard for selection for the 2012 Olympic Games, and there were some commentators who felt it was he, not Goody, who should have taken that Olympic berth. It was just one class which illustrates one aspect in which sailing is so tough, in that only one athlete can be selected, no matter how many top sailors each nation has at the top of the class. Would Thompson have won a medal in 2012? Who knows, but it must have been particularly frustrating to witness Goodison suffering from injury and unable to compete for a place on the podium.
Disappointed he may have been, Nick Thompson simply knuckled down and was selected for the 2016 Olympic team back in September when the first team announcements were made.
Where did he start off?
Nick Thompson grew up in Lymington, his first sail was aged two in a Seawolf 26 with his parents. He started his sailing career at Salterns Sailing Club, which was just down the road from the family home. From playing in a little rowing boat, he gradually worked his way through the classes. He crewed in a Cadet at Royal Lymington, so he was racing competitively from the age of about six. Then he moved into the Optimist class where he competed for four years. He then worked his way through the RYA (Royal Yachting Association) squad system, and progressed into the Olympic Development Squad and the Performance Squad.
Nick Thompson at a glance:
World ranking: 8th (as of 19/05/16)
Date of birth: 05/05/86, Southampton
Started sailing: Aged 2 in a Seawolf 26
Biggest influence in sailing: Dad
Career highs: Laser World Champion 2015, Laser World Champion 2016.
Read our Olympic Sailing guide, our medal predictions for the British sailing team for 2016 and our guide to the Rio 2016 Olympics.