My Olympics Journey

Words and image: Stephanie Norton


I arrived in Japan on 13 July, which meant I was the first Hong Kong athlete to arrive!


After the usual COVID test and waiting around in the airport for the bus (for a few hours), we were finally off to the Olympic Sailing Village. From the airport to the village it was about a 2.5 hour bus trip.

The Olympic Sailing Village was in Oiso Prince Hotel, a 30 minute drive from Enoshima Harbour. This is where the majority of sailors and coaches were staying, with the exception of a few larger teams. The hotel wasn’t super big, so I shared a room with the Hong Kong windsurfer, Hayley Chan Hei-man. Our room was pretty simple, nothing unusual and definitely no cardboard beds in sight…

Things were run a little differently than normal due to the pandemic. We were only allowed to go between the sailing village and the harbour on a bus (or special taxis), or to the main Olympic village in Tokyo.


Everything we needed was inside the hotel, a buffet, a gym, and a ‘recreation’ centre (basically just origami, and table tennis) - so no sushi and ramen for us which was extremely unfortunate ):

Being the pandemic games also meant that we needed to be tested every day, wear masks everywhere, and even wear gloves when we got food from the buffet.

I got my boat on the 14th and was allowed to train on the water from the 15th up until racing started on the 25th. In the Laser class, they provide most things for you, so I just had to show up with my ropes, tiller and extension, and some clothes.


Unfortunately, this year the Hong Kong Olympic Committee would not allow the sailors to attend the opening ceremony, so Hayley and I could only watch it on the TV in our room whilst wearing our ceremony jackets. All athletes were required to leave Japan very soon after their competition finished, which ruled out the closing ceremony as well.

Racing was from 25 to 30 July. It was relatively similar to most major regattas other than a few helicopters buzzing around and a few reserve days in the middle.

Whilst I’m not going to discuss every race individually (you can just watch them online anyway), I can say that these are the best girls in the world. They came to fight (and potentially kill?) for the gold medal. So, it was not easy racing, and even though I sometimes got a bit frustrated with myself, I still tried to do the best that I could in each race.

To make things more complicated, the venue is quite a tricky one to sail at. Every day was a completely new day on the water: the wind strength was different, the direction, the shifts, the current, the waves, and even the course was different making it extremely challenging for me. Coming off the water I would discuss with my coach where I maybe went wrong in the day, but then the next day would be completely different which made it really challenging to work on the areas we discussed the day before.

There were some low moments, but there were also lots of good moments. Whilst I’m sad it’s over, I was also slightly glad racing was finished to be able to take a break and check out the Main Olympic Village. All I can say is that I am jealous of all the amazing food they had (sushi, ramen, wagyu beef to name a few).

Not going to lie, I am a little disappointed with the results from this regatta, but that’s okay. Coming to Japan it was always about learning as much as possible and it was such an amazing experience that I absolutely have no regrets. In sailing you aren’t always guaranteed to do well. You need to work extremely hard, and sometimes just be a little bit lucky. If this journey to the Olympics has given me anything, it’s motivation to work harder.

Most of the work is put in in the weeks, months, and years leading up to a major event like the Olympics. Not just by me but all the people who I work with behind the scenes (you know who you are). Thank you! I want to say a special thank you to my coach Ben Koppelaar who I’ve been working with for the past two-ish years - without you I definitely wouldn’t have made it.

I’m extremely proud to be able to represent Hong Kong and I feel so lucky to have received all the support that I have over the past few months, so thank you to everyone <3

Steph