A Race to Tokyo
Imagine if the Super Bowl, NBA Finals or World Series were only held once every four years. Now imagine those household names and sports icons weren’t paid to play and instead went to work each day like you and me, and spent their evenings and down time training and competing for a once-in-a-lifetime chance at a championship. This is the reality that most of our Olympic hopefuls face. No mega contracts, multi-million dollar endorsements, private charters or personal chefs, just a love of their sport and determination to complete for a chance at their own athletic glory.
The 2020 summer games are in Tokyo, Japan, and Gig Harbor sailor Hanne Weaver’s lifelong dream is to take on the world’s best and bring home a medal for her country.
“I have always had the dream to go to the Olympics,. To win and represent my country will be an honor,” she said.
Hanne was just 8 years old when she learned to sail on Wollochet Bay with the Tacoma Yacht Club’s Learn to Sail program. Her grandfather was the first to take her out on the water, and from that first experience, her lifelong passion was born.
“He took me sailing when I was little. I guess it runs in my blood,” said Hanne.
Hanne picked up the sport quickly and started competing in youth events and finding early success. As her skills improved, she sought out even more competitive events, taking home wins regionally and nationally. Winning at the highest level helped prove to Hanne that she has a real shot of competing for her country and also has helped shape the woman she is today.
“I have been so many different places and have experienced so much with becoming a sailor. Sailing has taught me so much about being independent, reliable and a strong female,” she said.
As with any sport, team or individual, to be the best you have to fully dedicate yourself to your craft. For Hanne, this means long days and nights in the gym, constantly being on the water even in less than ideal conditions, and not having as much time with friends as your typical young adult would.
Hanne keeps her calendar close by and each week it’s packed, even when there isn’t a competition going on. She’s in the gym five days each week, sometimes six. She trains on the water three to four days each week as well. She says she is very thankful for the support of her sponsor, CHI Franciscan Health, which helps her out with expenses. But like most other Olympic hopefuls, Hanne works a job as well. You’ll find her at the LOFT in Uptown when she’s not in the gym or on the water. Hanne’s friends know that sailing always comes first, and they are behind her in her quest for the Olympic Games.
“It’s hard to choose between all of it, but when you love it as much as I do, you will do anything to get out on the water.”
One of the many things that makes the Olympics so unique is the world is introduced to sports they might not be familiar with. Though her style of racing is done in more than 120 countries, 2020 is an opportunity for Hanne to bring more awareness to the sport she loves so dearly here in the states.
While there are various sailing events, Hanne will be competing as an individual in the Women’s Singlehanded event. Her boat is a Laser Radial 14-foot dinghy. Hanne is only about six inches off the water as she constantly adjusts her sail and course. To the uninitiated it might appear that she is just holding the sail and letting the wind do the work, but there is so much more at play.
“Laser sailing is a very physical sport. It looks easy, but sailing has a lot going on. The wind doesn’t always come from the same direction, not each wave is the same, then there is the current and obstacles in the water, too,” she explained.
Being so close to the water, Hanne is being splashed and also needs to be fully aware of the other boats around her. Similar to competitive golf, sailing is a self-governed sport, which means that each competitor is responsible for himself or herself. But sailors can protest each other if they break any rules. With 80 or so boats out on the course at a time, there is a lot to be aware of.
As the calendar flips to 2019, there are more events on Hanne’s schedule leading up to her big Olympic qualifiers. In January, she will be competing in the Miami World Cup, a regatta she qualified for earlier. She will continue to challenge herself with these races, and, in 2020, the two biggest races of her life will take place.
“There will be one in Florida and one in Australia. Whoever places with the lowest points at both competitions wins the spot for the Olympics,” she said.
There is only one spot available, so competition will be fierce as other sailors around the country are also hoping to see their Olympic dreams realized.
Hanne continues to train and sail out of Shilshole Bay Marina. And despite her incredibly busy schedule, she still finds time for fans and to help out in one of the places that helped her become the sailor she is today.
“I still see my old coaches and young sailors that look up to me. I always love giving back to my community, and when I grew up sailors did that for me, I want to do the same for them,” she said.
Hanne has accomplished many of the goals she set for herself at a young age and continues to strive for her ultimate goal of making the U.S. Olympic team. She was third in line for the Rio games, and just missing out is a motivator to come out on top as this opportunity only comes around every four years.
You can follow Hanne’s journey on her website WeaverSailing.com. A lifetime of training for a chance to compete in one race; something very few are willing to put the work into but not Gig Harbor’s Hanne Weaver, your local Olympic hopeful.