James Juhasz is a 20 year old sailor of the laser class, originally from Oakville, Ontario. He began sailing at the Bronte Harbour Yacht Club at the age of 7, and from there his passion was ignited. Through the club he started racing when he was 13, and soon joined the provincial team at 15. He competed with them year round for many years as he grew increasingly more active on the international scene. He then went on to study at Queen’s University, mainly because of its proximity to the national sailing team which is based out of Kingston, thus allowing him to continue sailing and training full time. After 3 years in undergraduate, in March 2020 he decided to take a hiatus from school and try his hand at focusing 100% on training.
After putting a fundraiser together at his local club and managing to scrape together enough money, he traveled to train in Malta, an archipelago in the central Mediterranean between Sicily and the North African coast. There he has been training with an international group at a world renowned laser class training centre for the last 8 months, where he has been able to train all year round due to the mild winter of 12 degrees celsius and the reliable winds. “It’s a really incredible experience”, he said.
“My goal is to compete for Canada at the Summer Olympics, and my ultimate goal is to win a medal for Canada at the olympics”, he said as we discussed what the road to the Olympics would look like for him. In the laser class, boats are single handed with one sailor, and thus he needs to first qualify himself to represent Canada at the games, as only 1 person from every country who qualifies is given the opportunity to go.
For athletes, the course of Covid-19 regulations has taken a significant toll on their wellbeing and competitive opportunities. Over the past year, athletes have been put through the ringer as they have had to deal with the tempestuous nature of the virus, with their dreams, goals and training hanging in the balance. “It’s a really tough thing. In the past week alone there’ve been 2 events that have been cancelled and then one of them was reinstated and then cancelled again and so everything is completely turbulent and nobody had any idea of what was happening even up to a week beforehand”, James described. No matter the myriad of assumptions or predictions one makes, the fact of the matter is that at this point nobody can be certain of what is going to happen.
To stay on track, James is trying to focus solely on what is in his control, and working on improving himself in his sport so that he is at full capacity when his next chance to compete opens up. With all the events being cancelled, it can be extremely disappointing. The rollercoaster of emotions that comes with getting your hopes up and then being let down again can be emotionally draining. “The position is that whatever happens happens and I need to not waste any energy on things that I can’t control”, he said. For James, the controlables that he as an athlete had identified are how hard he is training, the people he is surrounded by, and where he’s training. “As for the things that are outside of my control, there is no point wasting any energy on them”. For many young athletes, this approach can be hard to comprehend because their sport and the spirit of competition is what they’ve dedicated the majority of their lives to thus far, but in response James says, “it’s tough but its part of the game”.
Unfortunately, Canada as a nation in the laser class has missed out on qualification for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. However, James is trying to stay positive and find the silver linings. He described that this missed opportunity “has actually been a blessing in disguise”, lifting a weight of stress from his shoulders. Due to his young age, the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, though theoretically in the cards, were never his main goal. He felt very much an outsider to them, and his main goals have always been more focused towards the 2024 Paris Olympics. “This has kind of allowed me to ignore the all white noise, the stuff that doesn’t matter as much”, he said.
Looking after mental health for young athletes with the disruption to sporting qualifiers and events has been an ongoing journey. “Nobody ever said it is gonna be easy being an athlete, having so many things out of your control is something that takes a toll on everybody”, said James. “I’m kind of a person who buries himself in their work a bit, so my philosophy is that if I’m keeping busy here, so I’m on the water everyday and I’m in the gym and working on fundraising, then I just keep so busy that you don’t have any bad thoughts come to the front of your mind”
At this time, all athletes are able to do at this time is to continue training to hope that all of their hard work will be able to be put to use when the sporting events come to fruition. “I’ve been training here for 8 months now, and I’ve obviously made a lot of big improvements to my game, and I’m a competitive guy so I’m excited to get back out there and show people what I can do and the progress that I’ve made. It’s draining being out there and it sometimes feels like you’re beating your head against the wall, but you’ve just gotta trust the process and know that you’re making gains and that when the time comes all the hard work that you’ve been putting in is gonna show”, he expressed. Throughout this time, It’s important for athletes to see the light at the end of the tunnel after a year of stalling and standstills where it may feel as though nothing has improved. “You need something that you’re working towards and that will keep you motivated and make it all worth it at the end of the day”, James said.
To help fund James’ journey to the 2024 Paris Olympics, visit his website jamesjuhasz.com or windathletes.ca/jamesjuhasz, where all donations are tax deductible.