From being dragged to her local sailing club to get her out of the house on weekends, to representing Great Britain, Surbiton-born sailor Nicola Groves is determined to bring Rio 2016 success back to London.
In early March Groves was named in Team GB’s sailing team to compete at the Rio Olympics in the Nacra 17 mixed multi-hull event that is being included for the first time this summer.
The 26-year-old will team up with Ben Saxton in a partnership that began back in September 2014 — and the pair are looking to make history.
“It means everything to me to be selected for Team GB,” Groves said.
“It’s the highlight of my life, and I can’t wait to get started and give it everything when I get to Rio.
“Four years ago I just had a normal job in London and I was thinking that it wasn’t really going anywhere.”
It all began for Groves at Island Barn Reservoir Sailing Club in West Molesey near Hampton Court.
“I must have been about 10 or 11 when I started sailing,” she said.
“My mum got fed up of my brother and I doing nothing on the weekends.
“Both my parents had sailed so they took us down to our local sailing club.”
Groves became hooked on the sport and has never looked back.
But to get to the top of any sport requires sacrifice — something that never bothered the ambitious yet modest Groves.
She said: “I missed out on a lot when I was younger, when my best friends were doing things on the weekend.
“Instead I was having to wake up at 4 o’clock in the morning to go to training in north Wales.
“I had some great weekends in the sea taking part in some really long training sessions, although it was absolutely freezing when we’d be training in the middle of February or December.
“But I don’t regret it at all, I’m still good friends with them and we keep in regular touch, I wouldn’t change a thing.”
And Groves’ talents do not just lie on the water.
She went on to study at Exeter University and managed to juggle her studies with her sailing commitments, graduating with a BSc in Human Biosciences in 2010.
Since Groves joined up with Saxton in September 2014, the duo, who have been friends since the age of 15, have enjoyed plenty of success.
Two months after forming their partnership, they came seventh at the Sailing World Cup finals in Abu Dhabi, and claimed the European title last year before scooping the bronze medal at the Copa do Brazil in Rio in December to end the year strongly.
Then the pair finished sixth at the World Nacra 17 Championships in Florida in February this year, before achieving their dream of being picked for Team GB.
“We’re definitely going to be aiming for the gold medal in Rio,” said Groves.
“It was great to get the bronze medal at the Copa do Brazil in December, but hopefully this summer we can make that medal a little bit shinier!
“When I was younger I looked up to Shirley Robertson [British Olympic gold medal winning sailor in 2000 and 2004], she was amazing.
“Most sailors will tell you that they looked up to Ben Ainslie, but Shirley was always my favourite.
“She managed to win gold medals, so it just makes me think, ‘Why can’t I?’”
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