In what appears to be an impressive degree of pre-planning, the British Sailing Team has set its sights firmly on winning kiteboarding Olympic medals at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
Despite the next-but-one Olympics still being six years away the British selectors recently put a call out for aspiring female riders who believe they have what it takes to win gold – irrespective of whether they have kiteboarded before or not.
The #kiteforgold talent search – a joint initiative between the British Sailing Team, the British Kitesports Association and the English Institute of Sport – hopes to recruit athletes capable of being trained to perform at the highest level in the Formula Kite discipline.
Formula Kite is an ultra-high-performance hydrofoiling sport that sees riders race round a racecourse at blistering speeds of up to 55 knots (63 mph).
Although not yet officially an Olympic sport, World Sailing – the global governing body for sailing – confirmed at its mid-year meeting there would be a mixed kite event put forward to the International Olympic Committee for inclusion at the Paris 2024 Olympics.
This is expected to be confirmed by the IOC after ratification at World Sailing’s annual conference later this year.
To be considered for the #kiteforgold programme applicants be female, British citizens, aged between 15 and 28, and: “be fiercely competitive, highly motivated to succeed, and enjoy fast and fun racing”.
The organisers are at pains to point out that the search is not limited to those who can already kitesurf and they very much want to hear from anyone who is a proficient racer in windsurfing, dinghy or multihull classes, as well as experienced riders from other board sports including surfing, snowboarding, skateboarding and wakeboarding.
Successful applicants will be trained by the British Sailing Team and BKSA’s expert instructors and coaches and supported through the transition to becoming a full-time athlete.
If, as expected, Formula Kite becomes an Olympic sport, financial support will be available to shortlisted candidates via the UK Sport World Class Performance Programme funded by the National Lottery.
Formula Kite made its Sailing World Championships debut in Aarhus, Denmark, in August.
Britain fielded three world-class male riders – brothers Guy and Olly Bridge, and Connor Bainbridge. Guy Bridge clinched the silver medal after leading early in the week, while in the women’s division his mother Steph Bridge finished fourth.
“The goal of #kiteforgold is to develop a strong group of female riders, one of whom will compete alongside a male rider for gold at Paris 2024,” said Ian Walker, Director of Racing at the RYA.
“While Paris 2024 seems a long time away, six years is a short time to develop world class athletes from scratch in a new event,”.
“We want to get ahead of our competition so that we can give our athletes the very best chance of success. We cannot afford to delay our talent search until after the final IOC ratification as precious time would be lost.”
Applications are open now and will close at 12pm on Monday September 17 after which five selection/development weekends are planned in Exmouth, Poole and Weymouth.
By Justin Chisholm – International Sailing Writer