A family reunion for Great Britain’s first individual medallist at the Youth Olympic Games
BUENOS AIRES — Five years to the day since he competed in his first sailing race, 15-year-old Finn Hawkins became team Great Britain’s first individual medallist at the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games.
As he braved the gusty conditions on River Plate and raced to a bronze medal in the Techno 293 Plus men’s windsurfing finals on Friday, Hawkins’ parents — Jeremy and Susan — watched him from a boat barely a few miles away.
Hawkins wasn’t aware of his parents’ presence until he returned to shore and learned that he had clinched the bronze behind winner Alexandros Kalpogiannakis of Greece and Italy’s Nicolo Renna.
“I’m super grateful to be the first [individual] medallist for [team GB]. This means a lot to me,” said Hawkins, whose fourth and two third-place finishes on the penultimate day had kept him in contention for a medal.
“When I came out of the waters, I was waiting for them to come back so I could give them a hug. Their being here means everything to me. They do a lot for me. Without my parents, I couldn’t be here.”
His father’s day had begun with a Facebook notification: a ‘memory’ that took him back to the then 11-year-old Finn’s first foray into competitive sailing.
On Friday, minutes after the final ended, the elder Hawkins received a text message from team GB coach Oly Woodcock informing the parents that their son had won the bronze.
“To be this close, and watch Finn [race], and get the news on this boat is incredible,” Jeremy Hawkins said. “The Youth Olympics is a once-in-a-lifetime [opportunity]. By the time he returns home, this will have completely changed him. He will no longer be a little boy.”
For Finn Hawkins, overcoming a difficult start was only one of the several challenges he had to confront in the lead-up to his podium finish.
“Racing people that are two years older than me has been very challenging,” he said. “But I’ve tried to stay focussed. I’ve been training for it hard at home for this event, doing lots of competitions. It really shows off how hard I’ve worked. I’m sure there will be more to come. It’s a good start.”
A resident of St Austell in Cornwall in southwest England, Hawkins’ initiation into sailing came about at age nine, after watching local windsurfers “sail so fast.”
“Wind surfing just appealed to me,” he said. “The first time I jumped on my boat, I just fell in love with it. I just kept doing it more and more.”
Two years later, and barely six months into formal training, he won a bronze at the 293 Plus Youth World Championships in 2014, a feat he repeated at the age-group Techno World Championships in August this year.
Hawkins trains in Portland, Weymouth, so living near the sea, said his mother, helps him balance his academics and sailing. Participating in international events to better his starts, too, has been beneficial. It has brought with it the added benefit of getting to know his competitors better.
“But there’s the General Certificate of Secondary Education exams to be taken next year,” Susan Hawkins said.
The teenager is keeping things in perspective.
“Life will continue as normal back home and I will have to revise for my exams when I get back home,” Hawkins said. “I would love to go to the senior Olympic Games and win a medal. But that’s for the future. I just want to enjoy my time now.”