Sarah Douglas’ Journey to Lima – A Dream Come True

July 10, 2019

Canadian Sport Institute Ontario - After years of hard work and determination, Laser Radial sailor Sarah Douglas is ready to travel to Peru to represent Canada this summer at the Lima 2019 Pan American Games. Born in Burlington, Ontario, Sarah started sailing at the age of 7 and instantly fell in love with the sport. By the age of 15, she was identified as one of the future stars of the sport. In 2010, she placed second at Youth Nationals and represented Canada at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore. Fast forward to 2015, Sarah earned a spot on the Canadian Sailing Team as a senior athlete and has not looked back! Currently ranked 3rd in the World in Laser Radial, Sarah trains out of the Ashbridge's Bay Yacht Club in Toronto, Ontario. 

Canadian Sport Institute Ontario (CSIO) first began working with Sarah in 2014 when Ontario Sailing and Sail Canada identified her to receive targeted support via the CSIO Ontario High Performance Sport Initiative (OHPSI). Ontario Sailing and Sail Canada, in partnership with CSIO, conducted an individual gap analysis to determine the development appropriate support Sarah would have access to, including coaching and technical leadership, sport science and sport medicine, as well as for international competitions and training camps.

Specifically, OHPSI funding contributed to Ontario Sailing’s Provincial Coach, Chris Hewson and Sail Canada’s Next Gen Coach, Chris Cook, who have both played an instrumental role in developing and shaping core technical, tactical, and high-performance training behaviours that have proven to be fundamental to Sarah’s success to date.

To accelerate progression along her performance pathway, Sarah was introduced to CSIO’s world-class sport science and sport medicine support in the form of strength and conditioning, mental performance, and nutrition, to further develop both her lifestyle and on-water habits, traits, and characteristics. The sport science and sport medicine support Sarah received has evolved over the years to establish a more deliberate approach in monitoring training loads and overall health and wellbeing.

Notably, Sarah has worked with CSIO Lead, Sport Scientist, Sheldon Persad since 2015 to help her with conditioning. With over 30 years of experience, Sheldon’s areas of focus include methods of monitoring elite athletes to guard against periods of unplanned detraining and overtraining. 

"Sheldon continues to push me and ensure that I have the correct programming at home and as I travel the world for competitions and training” said Sarah. “We have been working together since 2015, and I look forward to continuing the work towards the Pan Am Games and Tokyo 2020." 

Over the last two years, Sarah has also worked closely with CSIO Mental Performance Consultant Rolf Wagschal, who has been instrumental in helping Sarah improve her attention and focus to details that matter most. Rolf played a key role in helping Sarah shape her process goals around the opportunity for her to experience a multisport games environment and compete at the Pan Am Games in Lima, Peru. Another part of Rolf’s role at CSIO is as a Game Plan Advisor, working with athletes, like Sarah, to help plan and manage non-sport commitments without compromising sporting performance. Sheldon and Rolf work in tandem to minimize Sarah’s workload and help her find balance. This includes providing Sarah with one platform to efficiently track both her physical and mental progress. 

As a member of the Canadian Sailing Team, Sarah faces numerous challenges, such as travelling to different training camps, acclimatizing to different time zones during competitions, and transporting her boat internationally. Sheldon and Rolf work with several other team members to help address these challenges. At the helm is Head Coach Vaughn Harrison. On the sailing side, Vaughn is supported by Ken Dool, Katie Yeo, and Mike Milner. In addition, Sarah receives nutrition guidance from Anna Tobias. Sarah also works closely with CSIO’s Murray McCullough (High Performance Advisor) and Meghan Buttle (Physiotherapist).

Access to CSIO’s team of sport science and sport medicine expert practitioners, working in tandem with her coaches and additional support staff, has been a game changer for Sarah, elevating her to the highest levels of international performance.

With Sarah’s talent, hard work, and dedication to sailing, it is no surprise that she has won countless awards over the years, including Sailing Rookie of the Year (2016), Ontario Female Sailor of the Year (2017 and 2018), and Sail Canada’s Female Athlete of the Year (2018).

Despite the honours, Sarah works diligently towards two main goals – One, her childhood dream to compete at the Pan Am Games; and the second, competing at the pinnacle event, the Olympics. Sarah will be fulfilling her first dream in a few weeks; and is well on her way to qualifying for the Olympics, having successfully qualified Canada’s berth in the Laser Radial class for the 2020 Olympics. Individual athlete qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics will take place later this year.

Sarah’s first opportunity to secure her 2020 Olympic berth will take place during the 2019 Radial Women’s World Championships held July 17-24, in Sakaiminato-City, Japan. Sarah will need a Top 10 finish with no other Canadian within 5 places in order to secure her spot. If she achieves a Top 10 finish with another Canadian athlete within 5 places of her, there will be a separate trial to determine who will represent Canada at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Combining her years on the water with her physical and mental preparation, Sarah is laser focused on the Pan Am Games, where one of her greatest dreams will come true in Lima, Peru.