Riley Gibbs: Taking steps to the podium

At 24 years old, Riley Gibbs just competed in his first Olympic Games, finishing 9th overall in the Mixed Multihull event (Nacra 17) with crew Anna Weis. In this report by Michelle Slade for the St Francis Sailing Foundation, Gibbs talks about his Tokyo 2020 experience and shares his thoughts about what’s next.

Where did your inspiration to be an Olympian come from?
It’s been a dream of mine since I was young – for as long as I can honestly remember. I sailed Sabots in So Cal as a kid – when I was in third grade, I remember hiding Seahorse magazines under my history books on my desk, trying to read articles and looking at all the photos on the Games.

I remember European teams came to Alamitos Yacht Club when I was a junior to train with Chris Rast. One team broke their rudder and threw it in the trash. My friend and I grabbed the rudder, cut it in half with a hack saw and each kept a half in our rooms – we idolized the idea of what it represented. Putting our fingers on the rudder itself was like a dream come true for us at the time – I’d say much of the desire to be an Olympian is internal.

What was the atmosphere in Tokyo like given all the constraints, and did it live up to your dream?
Regardless of COVID, just being there and to be able to experience it for yourself is something that’s unmatched by anything else in life, I’d say. It’s something I’ve personally looked forward to my whole life and I have idolized anyone I ever talked to about it or had met who had gone to the Olympics.

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