bow(wo)man Nikola Girke
From Boats to Boards

2004 earned Nikola Girke a respectable 13th place at the Athens Olympic Games in the 470 sailing class. Now the 5 time Canadian Women’s windsurf champion is back to windsurfing. Ready to challenge the Olympic circuit one more time, this time on the RS:X windsurfer. She says: “My ultimate goal has yet to be reached.” Interview by Andy Aichinger.

Windsurfing in Maui, 470 sailing at the Olympic Games in Athens, and now you are back to windsurfing. How come?
For me, I guess it just came down to that I have more fun windsurfing. I had a great time in Maui windsurfing in the high winds and waves and when I switched to 470's I only got that adrenaline rush a few times. I like the freedom and solo aspect of windsurfing as well as that I am in control of my own destiny.
Competing in the RS:X class might still be a little different from what you called windsurfing before. So how do you train for these new challenges, eg. in terms of tactics and endurance/pumping?
Windsurfing for me, as I knew it was always fast, exciting, and you only got to go windsurfing on a windy day. The RS:X on the other hand is a board that can be sailed in both the fast and exciting conditions and also in light winds, therefore it is like sailboat racing depending on the conditions. Tactically it is much the same as racing a traditional sailboat in non-planing conditions but once one is planing, tactics change and one sails more like skiff boats. Also, on the 470 there was two of us so we could talk about strategy and tactics while now it is all up to me. Endurance and pumping is just part of the fitness, it's something that takes time to get used to and you need to be able to endure the pain, especially if you are not used to pumping....ever (like me)!

Can you describe how it feels to compete under the 5 Olympic rings? Seems to be kind of addictive?
After 4 years of campaigning trying to win your Olympic spot, there are no more qualifications, no more gold and silver fleets, and there is no more time to prepare. Competing at the Olympics is showtime. Each and every race counted and was a once in a quadrennial chance at a medal. My experience at the 2004 Olympic Games was fulfilling in many ways, but my ultimate goal has yet to be reached. Sailing athletes seldom win a medal at their first Olympics, it is much more likely the 2nd or 3rd time around. So I guess it is addictive, it's like any other goal a person sets for themselves. You try and try again until you succeed. Sailing is an experience sport, and the longer you're at it, the more experiences one accumulates and that will help them in race situations and dealing with the whole "Olympic pressures".
What are your plans for the next few months, and what do you think might be possible for you in Beijing 2008?
I will be heading off to Europe soon to start the European circuit. My first regatta will be Hyeres in France, then the ISAF World Sailing Games in Austria, Holland Regatta and then the RSX Europeans in Turkey. In August I will head to China for the Test Event and finish the year with the Worlds in Italy. This is my first time really on the Olympic windsurfing circuit so I don't know how I hold up against the others. Between now and Beijing 2008 I have a lot of improving to do, so working towards a good result in Beijing.


photos: J. O. Erikson, Eric Aeder,  windgirls 2006