Riding the waves to success

Sailing
Nikola Girke competes on worldwide winds – photo by Martin Dee

If there’s a good wind up, West Vancouverite Nikola Girke can usually be found on the water. That’s not unusual for a sailor. But what is unusual is that Girke is one of the few athletes who has successfully switched from one Olympic sport to another: from sailing to windsurfing.

Girke had a chance to show off her sailing talents when she competed in the 470 class sailing competitions in the Athens Olympic games in 2004, placing 13th.

But Girke had started windsufing in her early 20s when she was living in Maui. By 2005, she was a five-time Canadian Women’s Windsurf Champion. She loved the adrenaline of the solo sport and decided to take on the new challenge of training for Olympic competition in windsurfing.

Her challenges are supported by knowledge learned at UBC, where Girke completed a bachelor’s degree in Human Kinetics and a business minor in 1999. “I loved the program and I did well because I was interested in it,” she recalls. “I definitely used what I learned in my sports career. When I go to a physio, or when a trainer explains things to me in the gym, I know what they’re talking about and I can ask good questions.”

At the end of June, Girke goes to Mexico for three weeks to continue her rigorous training. Conditions there — light wind, lots of current and waves, and hot, humid weather — will help her acclimatize to what she can expect when she goes for gold in Beijing.

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