At the last Olympics Pieter-Jan Postma went into the event as one of the favourites. Having collected silver medals at the 2007 Finn Gold Cup and the 2007 Pre-Olympics he looked to be at the top of his game and ready for the ultimate challenge. However it didn’t quite go to plan and he struggled to get any consistency and failed to even make the medal race.
After that experience, he took a few years out and is now back for his second campaign. Last year he took the silver at the Finn Gold Cup in Perth and a bronze at the 2011 Olympic Test Event. In spite of these great results he still had to finish top 10 at the Finn Gold Cup in Falmouth in May to satisfy his national Federation qualification requirements.
He says he has learned a lot from the previous campaign and now is better prepared for what lies ahead. “This time it was more about balance and challenge. We improved our weak points and we also improved our weapons, like starts, strategy and heavy air speed.. Last time I ran out of energy, because of too much of the same and neglecting myself. I lost my motivation to race.”
He found it hard to come to terms with his performance in Qingdao. “I started two months after the Olympics with all the wrong reasons, and after a half year without progress I took a break for a year and did another study. When I let sailing go I got a more clear view about the situation. I realised that accepting it was a weak spot in different ways, and learned to accept my negative feelings, to let them go and feel more free.”
But he still had a need to prove himself at the Olympics again. “I think what I have learned is that the things I do, it doesn’t matter what I do but how I do it. That's the most important thing for me. Because I have the opportunity to do the best I can, in the sports I do now, I want to be as good as I can, sail the boat really well, get the nice shifts, to be fully in flow with the boat and the wind. What's nice is that we can work towards something and that is the Olympics. Its great to work towards that.”
“The level is high, but I don't believe the Olympics is the most important thing; it's the process that is the most important. I am really happy I have the opportunity to do it and I have learned a lot from it as a person: to make life choices, to travel and to sail in the Olympics. The focus is the moment and the Olympics is a nice event. But the journey is more important than the moment. Everyone is looking at the Olympics, and it's fun and it's nice, but it's all about the path you take - I have become more grown up by the whole process.”
How did he get back his motivation? “This year is easier to get motivated but I think its also nice to try and win a worlds. At the beginning of the four years, don't look only at the Olympics look also at the worlds and the Europeans each year. Try to do the best you can. Make your goals challenging but not to much. So try to always make your goals so you just reach them and get your motivation from that. Try to work with the goals. I played a lot with my goals so you can also. Don't put the goals too far away. Keep them close and play with the level.”
“To be a great Olympian I think you have to be persistent. It takes ten years at a high level of racing so you need to be persistent and determined; that's the most important thing. I think some people are focussing too much on the Olympics, maybe. What Giles did last year winning the Europeans and the Gold Cup was fantastic. He was the best sailor in the world last year.”
What drives you to want to do a Olympic Campaign? “It's a great learning experience. It's fantastic. Also it's nice to prove yourself and be a part of it. You have to be hard on yourself. You have to be honest with yourself. You work on your characteristics. It's a great thing. You learn about other nationalities. It is great taking challenges and step by step to be better.”
“Sailing is quite a complex sport, so I try to let my unconscious do almost all of it. Directing my conscious to take the best and objective information. So one of my main rituals is clear my mind.”
What gear will he be using in Weymouth? “The plan was early ready. I am using a stiff HIT mast with a soft top with full sails. North for strong winds, with steady profile. WB for lighter winds for more adjustable profile.”
How does he think that Olympic sailing should move forwards? “To me it looks like the ISAF is reacting to the IOC and personal opinions, and IOC on what's happening on the moment. I would like to see that the ISAF together with a few experienced athletes taking charge to make a 8/40 year vision and a strategy to get there. To be ahead of IOC wishes, and still keep the pure core of the sailing sport.”
Favourites for next week(excluding himself) “Ben Ainslie, Jonas Høgh-Christensen, Jonathan Lobert”
And what's next? “We now have a small Finn team, with great key people; Coach Stefan de Vries, Sponsor and media manager Alexandra Verbeek and material expert Jan van der Horst. This is fantastic but I am by myself in the boat. In sailing I would like to focus more on teamwork. I would like to support and be part of a team and performing together at the highest level. I want to put all my energy in a AC or VOR campaign.”
Photos: Robert Deaves/Finn Class