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Hans Henken To Represent Team USA at the Paris Olympics

The 49er team of Hans Henken and Ian Barrows are officially confirmed to represent Team USA at the Paris Olympic Games this summer. US Sailing declared winners in five of the Olympic sailing disciplines at the US Olympic Team Trials – Sailing, including Henken and Barrows, and women’s iQFOiL athlete Dominique Stater.

Hans Henken, S.F. Bay sailor from Stanford University who recently relocated to Barcelona
© 2024 Courtesy of Hans Henken

In an exclusive interview with Latitude 38, S.F. Bay sailor from Stanford Hans Henken relays what this accomplishment — winning a berth in the coming summer games — really means.

Hans Henken
Hans Henken with skipper Ian Barrows got the gold in Chile.
© 2024 Courtesy Hans Henken

“It’s been a lifetime goal — we haven’t really been living that long at all, but both Ian and I as kids, we knew we wanted to compete at the Olympic Games,” Henken says. “It’s one of those things where the goal was so big, monstrous to overcome. At times, it has felt like it will never come.”

The win signifies a lot of hard work and problem-solving paying off. Not only is this the second trial attempt, but Henken is not long recovered from the September SailGP accident that resulted in serious injury. At 200 days out, Henken is staying focused. “I’m currently at 80% of what I want to be at, and was 60% at the Pan Am games. You know, after the accident, I could hardly walk and had very limited range of mobility, especially my left arm and shoulder, so it’s been a bit of an uphill battle,” he tells us. “Injuries are not that uncommon. It’s all a matter of setting a game plan. All that we do in our campaigns as sailors is to set a plan and execute.”

At the US Olympic Team Trials, competitors were tested in a wide range of conditions on the two course areas in Miami — one on the Atlantic Ocean off South Beach, and the other in Biscayne Bay. At the beginning of the week, a front tested the athletes’ skills in big wind and waves that mellowed into more classic Miami conditions by Thursday.

SailGP’s Team USA launch into the massive nosedive that injured flight controller Hans Henken.
© 2024 Ricardo Pinto/SailGP

According to US Sailing’s report, the top three 49er teams battled for the lead all week, with everything coming down to the last few races on Saturday. Ian Barrows (St. Thomas, USVI) and Hans Henken (Coronado/San Francisco) took the win over Andrew Mollerus (Larchmont, NY) and Ian MacDiarmid (Delray Beach, FL) by three points. Nevin Snow (San Diego, CA) and Mac Agnese (Fort Lauderdale, FL) came in third, winning two of the last three races.

“It could have been anyone’s regatta any day, so we’re really honored to have won in the end,” said Ian Barrows for US Sailing. “We can all take credit as a group for what will hopefully be a good Olympic result in the 49er for the US.”

“Ian and I are incredibly proud of what we have accomplished,” Henken says. “We’re satisfied; this validation of everything we put in is so fulfilling. Especially in sailing, it’s easy to combine your worth and ideas of how you’re progressing based on results. The thing is, sometimes you get in this place where you can see progress but the results aren’t showing yet. That’s tough. That’s kind of where we were at, so in this particular moment, it just feels really good to have that validation.”

Henken wanted to be clear, however, that it’s a little too easy to say they’re just in it for the gold. While he’s just moved to Barcelona, Stanford and the Bay Area are home for Henken. He adds that he values his role as an inspiration for the community at home and abroad.

“From the beginning, I wanted it to be about more than that; I didn’t want it to feel like a binary thing. It’s really about inspiring the next generation of sailors,” Henken explains. “I hope that we inspire sailors to continue to do more racing and love sailing more.”

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1 Comment

  1. Memo Gidley 6 months ago

    So awesome! Go win it!! Good luck.

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