This summer in Rio, one athlete holds the distinction of being the only U.S. sailor to represent the Midwest. 26-year-old Annie Haeger of East Troy, Wisconsin already has a very impressive sailing career, including being named the Female Collegiate Sailor of the Year in 2012 and 2015’s US Sailing’s Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year.
Now, she and her partner Briana Provancha will sail for Olympic gold in Rio, competing in the Women’s 470 division.
Haeger’s first reaction to sailing wasn’t exactly love at first sight. "At the ripe old age of five, I was heading down to the Christmas tree, so excited to see what Santa was going to give me, and it turned out to be an Optima sailboat, and I immediately started bawling," she recalls.
Whether those were tears of excitement or tears of being overwhelmed, the rough start lasted a couple years. "I began a learn-to-sail program at a tiny little pond in Wisconsin when I was eight years old," Haeger says, calling herself "a very bad sailor." She notes that her parents joke with her by keeping a plaque that she earned at that age reflecting a 14th place finish, essentially last place.
Haeger's sailing tides turned as she went on to a successful youth sailing career, heading to the Volvo Youth Worlds (similar to the youth Olympics in sailing) and meeting her now-Olympic sailing partner, Provancha. Haeger says while she was somewhat shy, Provancha reached out to her at that event to be friends. Provancha won a gold in that event, and Haeger a silver. Haeger describes it as the turning point in which, "I knew that I wanted to win a gold medal, specifically at the Olympics."
"Both [myself and Provancha] have had that dream," continues Haeger, "and fate determined that we were going to go to Boston College together, and the rest is history."