Israeli sailors Gil Cohen (helm) and Nina Amir (crew) sail aggressively upwind on their way to Olympic qualification at the 2016 Trofeo Princess Sofia regatta in Palma de Mallorca. Israeli sailors Gil Cohen (helm) and Nina Amir (crew) sail aggressively upwind on their way to Olympic qualification at the 2016 Trofeo Princess Sofia regatta in Palma de Mallorca. Israeli sailors Gil Cohen (helm) and Nina Amir (crew) have momentum heading into the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.

Olympic sailors have a medal on their minds

Gil Cohen and Nina Amir, teammates for only eight months, set high expectations for Rio.

Gil Cohen and Nina Amir both hail from the coastal town of Haifa on Israel’s Mediterranean coast. While water sports in general are popular, the two were both drawn to sailing from a young age and started with the Haifa Sailing Club when they were in grade school, albeit seven years apart.

At barely 24, Cohen already has one Olympics under her belt and is no stranger to standing on the podium in international competition: With previous sailing partners, she has several bronze and silver medals in the 470 in ISAF World Cup and World Championship regattas. She also has a Junior World Championship silver medal in the smaller 420 sailboat.

Cohen and Amir have only been sailing together since December 2015; they came together after Cohen found herself in need of a crew, and the 17-year-old Amir was in need of a skipper. With only three months of training under their belt, they qualified for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil with a ninth-place finish at the Trofeo Princesa Sofia in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. A week later they posted solid results at the 470 European Championships.

“We trained alone in Israel, so all the time we did not know exactly how well we were sailing, we just had a feeling. And then we came to Trofeo and the training before the regatta was very good. I believed we could do it, but it was also so far from the mind. But we did our best and got success,” said Cohen.

Cohen and Amir took a few minutes out of their busy training schedule to talk to From the Grapevine about the moment they knew their dream was about to come true, their expectations for the Olympic games and the best advice they ever got.

FGV: When did you know that your Olympic dream might soon become reality?

We trained hard to win the last spot for Rio at the Princesa Sofia in Palma de Mallorca, and when we made it to the medal race, we realized we won the spot and that we are going to Rio.

What do you love most about sailing?

Gil: The thing I love most is that every day is different than the others so you never get bored.

What are the most important skills a good crew needs to have?

Nina: I think a good crew needs to be athletic, strong and communicate well with his or her skipper, but the most important is to work hard and always try to be better.

Cohen and Amir sailing downwind at the 2016 470 European Championships held in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, in April.Cohen and Amir sailing downwind at the 2016 470 European Championships held in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, in April. (Photo: Bernardi Bibiloni)

As a team, what are the areas in sailing that you excel in? What do you work to improve?

We think that as a team, the areas we excel in are good communication and helping each other to be the best we can, and we’ve been working hard to improve our skills in big breeze.

You’ve already been training in Rio; how is the sailing venue and what has been your impression of the water quality in Guanabara Bay?

We found the sailing conditions interesting and unique because of the current and because the sailing inside and outside the Bay is so different. The water is not very clean; you can see there is a lot of garbage floating in the water.

What are your expectations for Rio?

To be in the medal race.

What is the best advice you were ever given?

Nina: To be all I can be and do the best I can and leave it all on the water.

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