Laser focused: Juhasz’s Olympic training gets underway

Queen’s sailor faces challenges but is far from in the doldrums 

James Juhasz arrived in Malta in July to train for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Credit: 
Supplied by James Juhasz
What’s the difference between race car driving and sailing? On the surface the question may seem silly; one takes place on land and the other on water, one relies on horsepower and the other on wind. 
 
But for Queen’s sailor James Juhasz, an avid Formula 1 (F1) racing fan, the similarities are striking.
 
“At the face of it, it’s an individual sport, it’s one person and one piece of machinery, and they’re just trying to go as fast as they possibly can,” he told The Journal.
 
This has been Juhasz’s mission since he was a 10-year-old: to ride the waves as fast as possible, beating nature and leaving his opponents in the wind. When he’s alone on churning waters, he embodies Charles Leclerc pummeling down an F1 speedway. 
 
Juhasz’ s first memories in a sailboat date back to when he was just five-years-old and his dad took him out on the water in his hometown of Oakville, ON. What started as a summer pastime quickly evolved into something more. In recent years, sailing has brought the 21-year-old to both hemispheres, and now he’s vying for a spot in the 2024 Paris Olympics—something he’s aspired to for years.
 
“I can remember being maybe 16-years-old at training camp down in Florida, and my coach was asking the team kind of a rhetorical question, you know, ‘who of you wants to represent Canada for the Olympics?’ And of course, everybody puts their hand up, but at that point you kind of realize that it’s something that you really want to do,” he told The Journal.
 
“[S]lowly over a long period of time and you’re constantly surrounded by people who are always pushing you to be your best and always wanting the best for themselves, and it kind of develops that competitive instinct within you,” he said.
 
This competitive drive for sailing is what lead Juhasz to choose to attend Queen’s, which he called a “sailing haven” due to its proximity to Portsmouth Olympic harbour, which hosted sailing in the 1976 Olympics. In fact, Juhasz was so set on Queen’s that it was the only school he applied to. But what brought him to this school is also what had him take this semester off and defer graduation until 2023.
 
The fourth-year, who is ranked nineth in Canada, is currently across the Atlantic competing in the European Sailing Championships, with the aim of making it to the World Cup Circuit after having spent nearly three months training in Malta. COVID-19 has caused some complications to Juhasz’s plans, but overall, he feels lucky for how smoothly things have gone. 
 
“We’re actually really lucky,” he said. “I’m training out of the Royal Malta Yacht Club […] It has its own gym, that basically nobody uses except for us, the athletes who are training there. So, we essentially have a private gym that we’ve kind [have] made to be exactly how we like it.”
 
Juhasz left Malta in September to begin his road trip for the European Championships—as of last week he had already competed in Italy and was currently in Poland for an upcoming race. Though fortunate to be able to compete at all, the pandemic still creates looming uncertainty about any travel plans.  
 
“The European Championship is happening right now, but a lot of other regattas have ben cancelled, so kind of my entire schedule is in flux right now,” he said.
 
“It’s a constantly evolving situation. I obviously want to come home for Christmas, but if there’s a quarantine involved with doing that, then that might be a bit more difficult.”
 
While an opportunity to see family would be greatly welcomed, being far away from home comes with the territory. Sailing, specifically laser, is a fiercely independent sport: athletes are responsible for organizing their own training regimens, finding their own coaches, and are alone in the boat come race time.
 
“It’s an individual sport at the end of the day, it’s each sailor’s own prerogative to build the program that they think is going to give them the best chance of success.” 
 
Despite this, Juhasz was quick to point out that behind the scenes, there are crucial support networks involved.
 
“While it is an individual sport, there’s so much that happens behind the scenes in terms of training partners, coaches, strength and conditioning, and being able to fundraise and actually make it all possible.”
 
Fundraising is a crucial part in realizing the Olympic dream. While team sports cover travel expenses, individual sailors need to raise enough money to get them to the events. Juhasz has started a fundraising page to help him continue on the road to 2024.
 
While the Gael is spending the year away from Queen’s, he said the university has helped him progress to where it is today.
 
“The Queen’s sailing program is always going to hold a special place in my heart, some of my best friends were made through that team, and some of the most fun sailing experiences I’ve ever had were a part of the Queen’s sailing team.”
 
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