By Georgia HackettHe has been sailing since the age of six and now Conor Nicholas has 20-20 vision for the Tokyo Olympics.
The 19-year-old laser sailing champion hopes to become the youngest Australian sailor to compete at the next Games, having won gold at the 2015 Laser Youth World Championships in Kingston, Canada.
He hopes to continue the nation’s winning streak in laser sailing – Australia won gold in the 2012 men’s event at the London Olympics and again in Rio in 2016.
The boats Conor sails at a competitive level are no bigger than a dinghy – under 3 metres in length and weighing only 60kg, yet they can travel over 25 knots (40km) per hour, crewed by only one or two people.
“You don’t have anybody else to rely on but yourself and maybe the one other person you’re sailing with, it’s such a freedom. You don’t get this opportunity in any other sport,” he says.
“It’s such an exciting thing to work out what the wind is doing, what the waves are doing … It’s just so much fun.”
Conor also recently won gold while competing with more than 200 athletes in the European Laser and Radial Sailing Championships in Kiel, Germany, most of whom were in their mid-to-late 20s.
“It’s quite intimidating with everybody being quite old and mature,” he says, “Being 19, I’m one of the littlest.”
Although he wasn’t able to compete in the 2016 Championships due to a family tragedy, he has been training rigorously and hopes to qualify for the Olympic team after a course of intense workouts and meal plans that will last five months.
During this time he is also teaching children in primary and high schools the joys of sailing, saying he would recommend it to everyone, through his success and his teaching he hoped to inspire more people to take up the sport.
He has taught students at Kennedy Baptist College, Applecross Senior High School and a handful of others.
“It’s just nice to show them how fun it is, if they haven’t experienced it before,” he says, “It’s just so rewarding to see the smiles on their faces when they’re going fast.”