Heading into his third Olympics, Pieter-Jan Postma (NED) says he is taking more time over his preparation and is calmer and more prepared than ever before. He wants a medal, but he knows that it will be a big fight on the water to achieve that dream.
He got very close in London in 2012, but reflecting back four years ago when he lost a medal after a mistake on the final mark rounding, he said, “It's a different campaign; all areas needed work. Then I came a little short. This time there is more in the tank, so let's give it all again.”
At last year’s test event in Rio, he wore the yellow bib for the entire regatta, only to lose the gold medal on the medal race. Since then he has won the European championship and the bronze medal at the Finn Gold Cup during his most successful period of Finn sailing since he first stepped into the boat 11 years ago. Postma badly wants to put the spectre of the London Games, where he finished fourth, behind him. Since 2012 he has had, as usual, some ups and downs, but over the last 12 months he has most definitely been on the up.
“I think every year the level goes up and in Rio it will be the highest level. So in a few areas you want to step up way before the Olympics, for example in materials. Then you have to step up in other areas just before Rio. I think my level went up, up, up. I will be among the medal contenders. I feel good about it. I have got to trust, but you have always got to see where you end up and how it will go."
“This is my third Olympics and I would put myself possibly for the top five. But I want to go for a medal.”
He says his previous campaigns have felt rushed. This time he is, “Taking a bit more time, to actually see what is happening. In the last two Games I felt too much in a train – just keeping pushing. This time I am keeping calmer. I am getting more all-round and seeing the process picture more clearly, so I can train more effectively.”
“I feel my timing is good; much more comfortable than London.”
For the last year, Postma has been training alongside Josh Junior (NZL). “JJ is a great man to have around. We motivate each other off and on the water. It’s a really good experience. And we are sharing lots of tricks with each other. To train every day with the best is an honour. He is not that old, he is not that experienced but he is sailing amazingly. He has got a great feel for the boat, sailing downwind very well.”
“For Rio, we didn’t leave any stone unturned. In every area there are gains, and if the gains are big enough, we focus on it. So for example, the psych area we try and connect, handle the pressure, focus. So the right priority with the right leverage, with the right gain will bring out the best performance. The main thing is that you look at every area and make the best out of it.”
Staring and strategy have always been Postma’s strengths, but he thinks the key skills for Rio will be to be “fast and smart, cool and ready.” He adds that winning the European title has added to his confidence, “It's great to celebrate that, to win. I was the best then. It was an amazing experience and it does give you a boost. But every race is a new race. Everybody has got fitter. Sailors have shaped their techniques and topped their level. Everybody is faster.”
“I like the conditions in Rio, but at the same time Rio is different every day – so you have to be open.”
The Olympics has always has a special appeal to Postma. “It is always nice that the pressure is there. It makes it something special. Makes it something enjoyable and sometimes if the pressure is too much, you can feel it like a load, but I feel most of the time that I enjoy it. And the pressure in the Olympics is the biggest in four years. You work towards this goal for such a long time with the team. But I hope there will be pressure and I know there will be pressure. So it will be a great event.”
He feels at home in Rio and is enjoying the culture and the people. “I live with different artists of art and music in a big old school building. I feel at home to see different aspects of life, to be conscious of all choices I make, and what our role and responsibility is as humans in this wonderful world.”
But he also has concerns. “It's a different culture, great to see. How Brazilians can live day by day and make every day a day to smile. They drive like crazy but don't hit each other; it's like a dance on the road. At the same time, political and economic Brazil has a long way to go. And for example, the sewer cleansing and garbage services are behind for the times. So we live and sail with dirty water in a beautiful bay. Start with basics, good schooling and basic services, because this great country with these people deserve the best. It's great to be here with the people of Brazil. I am very thankful to be able to take part in the Olympics.”
Finally, “I think the Olympics is a special event and I am really looking forward to it. I speak to the other guys; they will be prepared. It will be a big fight, it will be fierce, I hope it will be beautiful and let’s all enjoy that.”