Life on the Road

Ben Barger Jamming

Obviously everybody wants to win, wants all their dreams to come true with a pot of gold at the end.  Mine in many ways have already been completed, but in other ways unfulfilled.  I left the last Olympics with a mandate to completely finish off my competitive Olympic pursuit by going for it one last time.  Initially it was vengeful pursuit, then it turned sad and then finally a clear focusing on winning.  I had no idea what I was getting myself into!  They say this is a “once in a lifetime opportunity.”  The reality is life is made up of a bunch of them. Whether you win or lose at these opportunities is obviously determined by hard work and luck or bad luck.

For the past 6 months I’ve finally been back on track to win, following what was a series of very bad luck.  In the next update I’ll explain exactly what bad luck occurred and what I’ve done to fix this in time to win the US Trials in less than 2 weeks.  Now in perspective, I had 7 years of very good luck before, that which I will always be satisfied with at completing.  But the trick is to take bad luck and turn it into an opportunity before it completely kills you.  Turning that luck around has been the most humbling and satisfying experience I’ve ever had.  It far outweighs the winning I’ve accomplished when all is easy.   But to complete this dream with such sacrifice and preparation, to give up any semblance of a normal life, and to just live the dream with honor and satisfaction is really once in a lifetime.  I want to share with you these stories. So these coming updates won’t just be about results but what it takes to be a US Olympian competing against the worlds best.

I’ve trained so hard the last 6 months I don’t care if I win or lose. I’ve done my absolute best preparation and this is the exact same formula I used for the last trials I won with confidence.”

Flying in Bermuda

In summary the 24 hours I was home in the last eight months is a good overall description of the necessary sacrifices to prepare to win the US trials and ultimately go to my second Olympics.  The French, British, Italians, Hong Kongers, Bermudians, and Australians, I owe a great deal of gratitude for allowing me to jump into their Olympic programs so that we both could improve.  Why?  Because there is only one athlete spot for my sport in the Olympics, so it’s not exactly conducive to be training with other Americans, and with little to no funding or specific requirements it’s a very singlehanded journey.  As I mentioned in my past Olympic updates it’s burning the candle at both ends. Completely unsustainable to have to raise your own funding and compete in Europe on other teams programs. That’s why I laid low, in other words worked, for 18 months while I filled up my “crazy tank”, and crazy is a vast understatement.   That means mondo sacrifice, long trips away from home, missing family and hope that it all turns out right and you don’t land belly up somewhere wet and cold.

Did I mention I’m a windsurfer?  Yes it’s a sport in the Olympics and it’s part of sailing.  Now comes the fun part. Most sailors don’t consider windsurfing to be sailing.  Yet windsurfing is actually part of the sailing discipline in the Olympics.  Do I feel welcomed by yacht clubs, sailing schools and most other sailors? The short answer is no.  There is a large disconnect here that creates great diversity in the Olympic sailing program but requires many different skill sets for windsurfing. Being different is not always better, in this case much more difficult for support.  Now you probably think of sailing and think about boats, and yes expensive boats. Expensive is a huge understatement.  Windsurfing is still hugely expensive to run a successful Olympic program but much less than the other 8 classes competing in sailing boats. I’ve raised all of the money the last 7 months from local American support, international investors and our Team2Seconds nutrition business start up.

Team2Seconds

I’ve spent $70,000 in the last 7 months to make my comeback, and there is no guarantee I will even win the US Olympic Trials, but I should have my best opportunity.   Much of it was spent on new equipment, travel and accommodation, which included living in a tent.  It wasn’t always this expensive, but with international teams hiring full time coaches and support systems it keeps on pushing the improvements at a breathtaking pace.  Meanwhile US Sailing, my governing body, continues to allocate resources on sailing specific pathways while saving till I die to spend anything on the windsurfing discipline.  This is exactly why I got involved so much politically, because I was tired of being the outcast, the one that never had the same resources other athletes had because my family wasn’t rich.  Nope I’m a motivated hard worker, and my results and political involvement are a direct outcome of standing up and saying; I’ve had enough. It’s my generations’ time to step up into leadership positions.

Emotions get the better of me. I’ve wanted to quit many times this past year.  I get lonely, homesick and tired of always living on favors and help. I could quit, that sure would be easy and easy to have that normal job and stable income and lifestyle.  But not me, and not the friends,

Making it Hurt

family and supporters I have around me that wouldn’t let me stop.  I thank you from the bottom of my heart for keeping me charged when I was too weak to do it on my own.  I’d much rather suffer and finish what I started, and yes, I usually get enjoyment out of getting the shit kicked out of me. Good to great is often the difference between living an over protective environment to one that your constantly being challenged. Have I improved?  Tons. I can’t wait to show you how much I have in the next update. I’m disclosing it all, no secrets or fear of my competitors reading these updates.  I know I will perform at a personal best at the World Championships in just a few weeks time. I will be a ferocious competitor. After that the Olympics is just 8 months away and I want to make every American proud, my family proud and stories to tell my children one day. I’ll leave it all out on the racecourse and wouldn’t want it any other way. Full stop. I’ve got something to prove here.


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