Anna Tunnicliffe is going for gold this summer at the London Olympics.
"I would give anything to be in that moment again. That's why we train every day of our lives. We wake up, train, sleep, train. Everything we do is for that moment,” she said.
The 29-year-old sailor, who is originally from Britain but moved to Ohio as a young child, trains at the U.S Sailing Center in Coconut Grove.
"I'm asked that question a lot. ‘Oh, you're going home to the Olympics?’ I'm not going home. My home is America. I live in Florida. This is my home. I like England a lot but, for me, it's just another country to compete in,” she said.
Last time she went to her native country, she said “It was really cold when I sailed in England and it wasn't very much fun.”
Tunnicliffe stood atop the platform in Beijing four years ago adorned with the Olympic Games' greatest prize. She is the reigning world champion and has been two-time women's sailor of the year.
"I would say I'm extremely competitive," she said.
To decompress after spending nine-hour days training, she does about 90 minutes of Crossfit, squats, chin-ups and sprints.
"All I'm thinking about is how much pain my body is in the whole time and not thinking sailing," the Fort Lauderdale resident said. “Which is a nice turnoff from my passion just to focus on me and my body and getting fit."
She’s got four national championships at Old Dominion University under her belt, in addition to the ranking number one in the world.
"You dream about that moment. I had only ever thought of finishing the races with the gold medal. I never actually pictured myself on the podium or anything like that. A dream, a whirlwind, such a proud moment to be up there and having your national anthem play and the medal around your neck,” she said.
And so the former high school track star in Ohio will get another chance in a few months in London. In 2008, Tunnicliffe won the Laser Radial competition -- a 4-foot boat with one sail, a bunch of opponents, and a crew of one. This time around, Tunnicliffe will hit the water on a 6-meter Elliott: three sails, one competing boat and a team of three in match racing.
"I switched from radial to match racing because it's a new challenge," she says with a smile. "It's a chess game on water. It's really trying to just outsmart your competitor all the time and you have to win the race. I kind of like the pressure and intensity of that type of sailing."
So the team, party of three, includes fellow Americans Molly Vandemoer and Debbie Capozzi. Capozzi is an old college teammate which makes the transition a little easier.
"The biggest adjustment going from by myself to the team was compromise. It wasn't always about me. I have two other people feeding me info. At first, it was a little bit of trust, like letting go of ultimate control of everything and allow my teammates to do really a lot of the work and me just making the boat go as fast as I can."
Part of that adaptation to the team match racing concept also includes etiquette for handling adversity.
"If one of us makes a mistake and we're angry at ourselves or we lose a race, we have a five minute rule. You can sulk for five minutes and then the moment's over and you got to move on," she explains. "We have a great trust for each other and mutual respect. There's no one leader
on our team. We're all on the same level."
Tunnicliffe has been sailing since she was 8 years old in her native England and comes from a family of sailors, moving to Ohio four years later and almost immediately putting her skills to the test stateside.
"I absolutely hated sailing until I was about 12 years old. I got into a youth sailing program and started liking it. I started winning. I had a fun coach. I enjoyed it all of a sudden. Then I started
competing, started putting in extra time,” she said.
And that extreme competitor was born. And so, off she goes back to Europe to train with a pitstop in Pennsylvania to visit her husband who's coaching there. She won't see much of her South Florida home until after the games.
"I watched the '96 Olympics and that's when I told my parents I was going to win a gold medal one day,” she said.
For more on the 2012 Olympics click here.