Podesta targets Olympic Games

Saturday, March 26, 2011, 4:27

by Wilfred Sultana

Youth is such an exhilarating phase of life. For although at this tender age one could lack knowledge, practice, skill and expertise such constraints are outshined by youngsters natural outlook which is gifted with a great spirit of adventure, challenge, opportunities and achievement.

Such go-go characteristics are blended in the determined qualities of sailing enthusiast Maya Podesta who has been chosen to participate in the Emerging Nations Programme (ENP) organised by the ‘Perth 2011 ISAF World Championships’ Organizing Committee. This is an exciting initiative to assist developing sailing nations qualify for the Olympic Games as its focus is that of developing athletes for elite competition. This intense training and racing development project, being held between the 27th March and 12th April, will be staged on the same waters where the 2011 World Championships will be held later this year.

“I am extremely lucky to have been invited as a Maltese sailor to attend for such a commanding training and racing programme which I am confident should assist me attain my ultimate goal – to qualify Malta a Nation place for the London 2012 Olympic Games in the Laser Radial Class, which is the Women’s One Person Dinghy Class”, commented Maya Podesta. Maya’s inspiration to embark on an Olympic Campaign matured after winning a silver medal for Malta in the Games for the Small States of Europe in Cyprus in 2009.

The Down Under invitation is undoubtedly a most rewarding opportunity where the organisers will fund every aspect of the Maltese sailor’s trip to Australia, including flights, accommodation and a fully equipped boat.

Maya believes that such an experience will augur well for her aspiration of Olympic qualification, as she will be able to test the racing area that will be used for the World Championships in December, an endeavour at being at par with many sailors from other countries who are spending long stretches of time training in Australia as preparation.

 Sailing with a mission - Maya for the Olympics!

Sailing with a mission - Maya for the Olympics!

How does qualifying to the 2012 Olympics work?

At the Olympic Games, the Laser Radial Class is limited to having 39 sailors, all of different nationalities. There are 2 qualifying events for the Olympics of the XXX Olympiad. These are the World Championships of 2011 and 2012. Seventy five per cent of the 39 nations, to be represented in the 2012 Olympic Games, will be decided at the 2011 ISAF World Sailing Championships to be held in Perth between the 3rd and 18th of December 2011.

“This event will be the climax of my training programme, where I aim to place within the top 26 nations. However, if unsuccessful in Australia, nations can qualify for the remainder of the places at the Laser Radial World Championships in May 2012, in Germany. Should I miss out in Perth I would then have to place within the remaining top 13 places at stake in Germany”, explained Maya.

Eleven years ago Maya was chosen as one of the two Maltese Olympic Youth Camp participants at the Sydney 2000 Olympics, where the exhilarating atmosphere of the opening ceremony infused in her the dream of becoming a true Olympian.

In September 2010 Maya was awarded an Olympic Solidarity Scholarship by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), to be able to help her with her training and regatta expenses in a bid to help her qualify for the Olympics. This in itself is already a big achievement, as it means that even beyond our shores, the International Olympic Committee and International Sailing Federation believed in the Maltese sailor’s aptitude, and that her qualification was possible.

27-year-old Maya, a medical doctor by profession, is a true ‘sailoress’ who at the age of 13 decided that if her brothers could join their father when he goes sailing, so could she. And so she sailed initially on keel boats and eventually moved onto dinghies where when at university, before she even got her own laser dinghy, she coached optimist dinghy beginners.

How important are training camps abroad and what makes training in Malta different?

“Being a small country, the pool of sailors is rather small, with a limited number of sailors as training partners or for competitions, giving those who do sail less drive. Because of this having a ‘full-time’ coach is not feasible, in fact I am only able to sail with my coach Mario Aquilina, once or twice a week on the weekends. This is nowhere near enough training for me if I want to attempt to compete against full-time sailors who sail 5-6days per week, so I end up also training alone twice a week.

When I go abroad on training camps I don’t need to fit in my training to my work schedule, but am able to concentrate just on sailing. We spend 3-4hours a day on the water, and fit in cycling, cardio and gym workouts as well. Every day we have a de-brief session where we watch and analyze the videos taken by the coach during the training session. This way we can see what we are doing wrong and learn from our own as well as others mistakes”, remarked Maya.

Maya has just returned from three weeks in the south of France where her training group consisted of Irish, Austrian and German sailors. There were also other teams training there at the same time, and on a number of occasions they had short races altogether, where she could gauge her progress with the top Swiss, British and Irish sailors. On her last weekend in France she participated in the Laser Interleague Mediterranean Laser Championship – a 2-day regatta where her best result was a 22nd out of the 89 entrants in the Laser Radial Class, a valuable experience and a good regatta to start the season.

In fact Maya’s favourite training grounds are at one of SailCoach’s SailBase’s in France (Ile des Embiez) or in Italy (Lago di Garda) where she is always sure to find experienced and qualified coaches as well as several training partners.

Yes, attaining objectives demand hard work, sacrifices, determination and of course expense. Indeed on coming back from her imperative Australian trip Maya has a full series of major regattas on her plate presenting a most demanding timetable including three events that comprise part of the ISAF Sailing World Cup. Her Calender includes: – Semaine Olympique Francaise, in Hyeres, France, – Expert Olympic Eurolymp Garda, in Riva del Garda, Italy, – Delta Lloyd Regatta, in Medemblik, Netherlands, – Kiel Week, in Germany and the Laser Radial European Championship, in Helsinki, Finland.

‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ is a well known classic tune which Maya relates to her efforts – ‘She’ll Never Sail Alone” because besides her family and close friends there are others who support and encourage her: the likes of the Malta Young Sailors Club, the Royal Malta Yacht Club, the Malta Sailing Federation and the Malta Olympic Committee. Other backing comes from the Ministry for Health, the elderly and Community care, under whose auspices she works, as well as from the Parliamentary Secretariat for Youth and Sport, within the Ministry of Education, Employment and the Family.

“I am very appreciative of this support. Attaining my objective is not going to be easy but it is possible and achievable with enough determination”, declared a resoluted May Podesta.

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