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She thrilled us with her legendary grit to bag a bronze medal on her Olympic debut in the women’s windsurfing event at Tokyo 2020, but England’s Emma Wilson is never one to rest on her laurels and is taking on the new Olympic class with typical flair, recently finishing second at the highly competitive 2022 iQFOiL European Championships in Lake Garda. We caught up with her to find out how she has found making the switch to the new Olympic discipline.

WORDS – Emma Wilsom // PHOTOS – Mark Lloyd / www.lloydimages.com

At first when they said we would be changing to iQFOiL for 2024, I didn’t know what to expect, I still had another year and a half on RS:X to focus on the 2020 Olympics. Obviously it was hard seeing everyone training already on the iQFOiL, but I actually really enjoyed the RS:X and the Olympics is my dream, so I am so grateful to have had that experience.

I had a month off after the games, went on holiday, caught up with friends I haven’t seen for a long time and went winging, but after 1 month I was super keen to get going on the iQFOiL. The main differences are probably the speed, getting used to that at the start and having 50 girls all around you with big sharp foils was pretty scary. Now I would say I am more used to it, although it doesn’t mean I don’t find it terrifying at times, but also really fun!!

Definitely we have to be heavier for the iQFOiL, but I think that suits me, I am probably now my natural weight, whilst before on RS:X I was always losing weight, which was hard. Looking back now I’m not sure how I did that for so long! We also have to be pretty strong to push against the foil, so I’ve been going to the gym more. We also still pump pretty hard which I like, I think I was a bit worried that it wouldn’t be very physical, but it still is, we just get to go faster, so win, win I’d say ha ha!

I find the racing pretty similar to RS:X, it just happens a lot quicker! The big difference is the new medal race format. It’s elimination style, so we have a quarter-final (top 2 advance), a semi-final (the 2 from quarter final meet 3rd and 4th from the opening series) and then a final (with the top 3). The medal races are really short, around 6 minutes, so it’s pretty dramatic and exciting. It’s definitely very different to the RS:X, but in a way that’s cool because it’s something different and I can learn a lot over the next couple of years to hopefully perform well in that situation.

The races I have done so far on iQFOiL have been really fun and the fleet is pretty big. I think we had 80+ girls at the Europeans, and quite a few girls from the PWA have come across too, which I think is really cool. I hope it stays like this so all the best girls in the world race each other and keep pushing the level. I could be pretty keen on doing some PWA racing, I just need to find some equipment to use!!

Definitely my best memory of iQFOiL so far is the 2022 Europeans in Lake Garda in May. I didn’t really have many expectations for the event, I just had a great time eating pizza and going fast on the water! Before the medal race I had a 33 point lead over 2nd place, unfortunately I finished 2nd in the medal race which meant I finished 2nd overall. I was very disappointed at the time, but looking back now I am pretty proud of how far I’ve come and how well I sailed that week. Now my focus is trying to qualify for the 2024 Olympic games!!

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