Kayaker Mark de Jonge competes in London Olympics
Sails up at London OlympicsBy admin | Aug 7, 2012
Tags: Danielle Dube, London Danielle Dube, London Olympics, Olympics, sailing
By Richard Shrubb
Danielle Dube from Glen Haven, N.S., may not have done brilliantly at this year’s Olympics but she’s far from done, at least in the eyes of those who have supported her to where she is today.
The 25-year-old sailor finished the Women’s Laser Radial Race 10 in 28th place on Aug. 4, unable to compete for the gold medal in this morning’s racing. This is not the first setback she’s had. “She hasn’t met her potential yet,” says Brian Todd, her coach and mentor. “She has a long way to go if she chooses to continue racing on the international circuit,” he says.
Dube began sailing at age nine when a school friend asked her to come with her and try it out at the St. Margaret Sailing Club. “My friend didn’t keep at it, but I did,” says Dube.
On the Club’s youth racing programme she graduated to Laser 2’s, a very fast, two crewed racing dinghy. She and her skipper had differences, so she went onto a single handed racing boat called a “byte.” At this point, she was noticed by Todd, who had been a national level sailing coach since the 1980s.
How do you get noticed by the national team at an early age? You don’t just have to beat everyone on the water; it runs deeper than that. Todd says he saw potential in her because, “Danielle wanted to do better and wanted to improve more than other kids in her group.” It helped that she came 4th place out of 135 boats in a national competition.
There was a changeover in light women’s single handed dinghies for the Olympics, and Dube chose to race her current boat, a laser radial, in 2003. She represented Canada for the first time on this boat in 2005.
Not one to completely sacrifice her life to sport, throughout her career Dube has balanced education with her sailing. She did her degree in management at Dalhousie University in six years instead of the usual four. “I’m seeing college friends buying their first houses these days while I am living at my parents, sailing for a living,” says Dube. “I missed out on being settled.”
This caused Dube some problems. “In 2008 I was sick of flying everywhere after a bad world championships in Japan,” she says. “There was too much pressure to compete.”
Todd says much of that pressure came from within. “She wasn’t meeting her own expectations,” he says. “At a regatta on Lake Tacapuna in New Zealand she won silver, yet had set her heart on winning gold.”
“We talked a lot about it,” says Todd. “She wanted to experience more in life so I told her to quit sailing to see how much she loved it.” Not one to give up all together, Dube only trained for sailing part time, working for her father as a dental assistant and finishing her degree.
“I basically went adrift for a time but within nine months returned to sailing full time,” says Dube. They do say the sign of a good fighter is she who gets up again quickly after a knock down. Dube didn’t disappoint.
She had no elite level funding when she began her campaign for the London Olympics in 2009. Todd says this was very good for her. “In that position, an athlete has to dig down very deep to succeed,” he says. “That is when the very best come to the top. Danielle was very lucky in that her parents put a fair bit of money into her programme,” priming the pump to get her back on top again.
Everything she’s done for the last three years has come down to one 10-race regatta this August. Dube feels she has a few disadvantages against her competitors–experience at an international level, and being relatively slight to the top women being chief among them. “I knew I’d be a long shot for gold,” says Dube. “There were really only five or six sailors in real contention.” Forty-one boats were in the fleet.
For all the competitors at this year’s Olympics, there was one amazing spectacle everyone would enjoy: when Team Canada walked in together. “The roar was such a buzz,” says Dube. “With the lights on all the seats you couldn’t see any spectators, you could only hear them!”
What’s in store for Dube further down the road? There are two real options. To quit sailing competitively and retrain as a sports psychologist, or to carry on. For the first time there will be a high performance women’s skiff–for the sailing types, like a 49er–at Rio de Janeiro in 2016. Dube is certainly tempted.
Todd feels she should really stick to racing, as she has it in her to make a name for herself. “Danielle should try skiff racing for a bit,” he says. “If she doesn’t get along? She really has it in her to do well in Radials. Only then should she consider education and retraining.” For one of the country’s top coaches to say this is no throwaway compliment.