Ravi Parent, alum of the Sarasota Sailing Squadron, and his teammate, Caroline Atwood, are training in hopes of qualifying for the 2020 Summer Olympics.
All great sailing partnerships start in a sailing club parking lot, when someone needs help loading a boat.
At least, this is what Caroline Atwood said about meeting sailing teammate Ravi Parent in 2014.
After Atwood helped Parent load his boat in his car, he eventually returned the favor by giving her a ride, and they became friends.
Fast forward four years, and now the two have embarked on a journey they hope will culminate at the 2020 Olympic Games.
The duo didn’t grow up together, but from a young age, they both pursued sailing.
Parent, 22, began sailing when he was 8 years old at the Bradenton Yacht Club. When he was 9, he moved into the Sarasota Sailing Squadron’s program. After high school, Parent attended Boston University, where he continued to sail.
It was there he decided he eventually wanted to go to the Olympics.
Farther north, Atwood, 24, began sailing in a small town in Maine. Like Parent, she started out in the Opti Green Fleet and moved up the ranks.
At her first world championship, Atwood began to understand what it would mean to represent her country.
At 16, Atwood realized being an Olympian was achievable.
The two began sailing together in June. They said their timing is a bit behind other teams, which formed in June 2017. But they are hopeful and staying focused as they prepare for three qualifying events, the first in Japan in summer 2019.
“Our main focus is competing on a world scene,” Atwood said. “We’re good. And within the context of the U.S. competition, we’re good, but that’s not enough for us. So right now our focus is becoming the best in the world.”
To prepare, their training schedule is four days on and one day off. They spend three to four hours on the water, two hours in the gym and one hour before and one-and-a-half hours after sailing debriefing. They have a regatta in January and after that, they will train in Europe.
“The best way to get better is to do what you do in a regatta,” Parent said.
The lifestyle is something both of them have had to get used to. This is their full-time job, and they are on the move every three to four weeks during a training block so they can sail in as many different types of wind and water conditions as possible.
It can be hard, and it can be lonely, Atwood said.
The middle of September was the first time since last June that Parent unpacked his suitcase.
But it’s their joy of sailing that keeps them going.
“It’s everything,” Parent said. “Every emotion you could basically have, you’ve experienced it on water.”
Sailing is a way for the duo to balance their athletic ability and the pure joy sailing brings them.
“There’s always a moment on the water where you’re frustrated about one thing or another. Maybe you’re training isn’t going as well as you wanted it to be going,” Atwood said. “In that moment, you need to take a breath and look around you and realize that you’re in the middle of a beautiful place doing a beautiful thing that you love to do, and if you can’t have that kind of perspective I think that it really damages your potential …”
It’s also a way for them to give back.
As they travel around to various communities, they work with youngsters learning to sail.
Atwood uses that time to make sure the kids know they, too, can be an Olympic hopeful, something she wishes she had realized sooner.
“... I think that it’s hard to picture yourself as an Olympian unless you’re given the affirmation that you can do this, so that’s always important for me to communicate,” Atwood said.
And if they do get to the Olympics, they want everyone to realize one thing – it’s not just them going with a boat and a coach.
“We’re part of this much bigger movement that’s trying to breed this culture of excellence and Corinthian spirit,” Atwood said. “So, when we’re going around and traveling, we are always trying to give back to the community and become a part of the community.”
She said it’s easy at times to forget the communities behind athletes.
“I think that when you look at Olympians, it’s easy to forget how many people are behind them, but we can’t forget them,” Atwood said. “That’s the only reason we can get there — because of everyone here.”