South Africa will have two boats in the Olympic sailing programme at the Tokyo Games after Leo Davis qualified at last week’s Finn Gold Cup in Portugal.
The 29-year-old will be joining Benji Daniel and Alex Burger, who qualified in the 49er class last month.
Davis had initially dreamed of representing the country at the Olympics in rowing and was the reserve to the heavyweight pair that competed in Rio five years ago.
After four years of training with the high-performance squad under national rowing coach Roger Barrow, he decided to switch boats in 2018 with the aim of competing in Tokyo in sailing.
“Luckily, I had been sailing at a very high level before rowing took over and I managed to keep sailing whenever my rowing training allowed, so getting back to professional sailing was an easy transition,” said Davis.
“Rowing and sailing are both leg-orientated and highly physical sports. I was able to use all the knowledge about nutrition, training programmes, recovery and adaptation that I learnt from the national rowing team to assist my sailing training and racing.
“I feel that the way an athlete approaches their sport and their mindset to achieve is transferable between all sports and other aspects of life.”
Davis’ final selection for Team South Africa is now in the hands of the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC).
The Cape Town sailor is currently based in Europe, but even getting to the qualifying event became a challenge due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I was uncertain that I would be able to attend the event until the restrictions eased a few days before I travelled from Italy,” said Davis.
“If I were travelling from South Africa, I don’t think it would have been possible for me to attend, at least not without a long quarantine in Portugal.
“So I’m really excited to have qualified South Africa for the Olympics. It has been my dream since I can remember to represent my country at the top level.”
Davis had a taste of the Olympic Games at a young age when his father, Greg, travelled to Atlanta in 1996 as a coach of SA sailor Ian Ainslie.
“From when I was a child, I would try on my dad’s Olympic kit and imagine wearing the South African colours at the Games, so to do that together would be very emotional,” said Davis, who might have his dad travel to Tokyo as his coach.
For now, Davis is training as hard as possible to reach the medal race at the Games.
“I plan to train as much as possible between Italy and France, getting as much work in with the top Finn sailors and top coaches,” he said.
“I have a list of things to improve from the last regatta and the aim is to make every decision from now on based on what will improve my performance leading to the Games.”
The Tokyo Olympics is scheduled to run from 24 July to 8 August.