Paul Goodison - Sheffield's 2012 Olympic sailing hero

Paul Goodison from Sheffield talks about his hopes for London 2012 Games

Nothing more would suit world class sailor Paul Goodison than winning Olympic gold on home waters as he tells Karenza Morton.

He is one of the world’s top sailors with an Olympic and now a world title to his name, but when it came to a straight choice between Sheffield United’s promotion quest and sailing last May, there was only one winner. Paul Goodison is a lifelong Blade. Sailing would have to wait.‘I was meant to be at a training camp in Belgium before an important regatta in Holland but there was no way I was going to miss United’s play-off final,’ he said. ‘I towed my Laser dinghy to Wembley.

‘After the game I drove straight to Harwich in Essex, got on the ferry to Holland, arrived at the venue about midnight, put my boat together, went to bed and then got up the next morning and prepared for the regatta.

‘It probably wasn’t the ideal preparation but I still won the regatta. I think I performed more out of frustration at the Blades not winning.’

If 2008 was the year Rotherham’s Goodison became something of a household name thanks to that Olympic gold medal, 2009 was the year he properly established himself as the undisputed best one-person dinghy sailor on the planet.

‘Winning my first Laser class world title last year was in some ways actually more exciting than winning the Olympics. Not only had it eluded me for such a long time but I really had to pull something special out of the bag to win it,’ said Goodison. ‘It was weird because whereas at the Olympics you’ve got the rest of the British team around you and the amazing medal ceremony, at the worlds there was only really me and my coach. The actual achievement was very exciting though.’

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The Laser class Goodison sails is the world’s most popular racing dinghy and in 2009, he was in a league entirely of his own, winning every event in the build-up to August’s World Championships in Canada, including securing his fifth consecutive European crown, before finally landing the one title that had escaped him in his 15 years of Laser sailing.

However, growing up in the South Yorkshire parish of Brinsworth, it was dreams of playing football for his adored Blades that consumed Goodison, not becoming an all-conquering sailing champion.

‘Mum and Dad sailed at our local club at Ulley before I was born so it wasn’t long before I and my younger brother, Matt, were out on the water. But sailing to me was about messing about and having fun; it was football I was into.

‘I played for a couple of local teams and school but had a couple of injuries and never really got back into the side. Dad lost interest watching me sit on the sidelines so we started spending more time at the sailing club. I think that was mainly so Dad got a crew to sail with.’Naturally competitive, it wasn’t long before the teenage Goodison progressed from club racing at Ulley onto the Yorkshire and Humberside Schools Traveller Series. The series visited 10 venues each year, including Ulley, Sheffield, Ripon and York, attracting anything between 30 and 60 boats for an event. ‘I loved sailing at Halifax,’ he said. ‘It was on the top of the hills and always super-windy, which made for great fun and great racing.’ Goodison won the series three years in a row.

He was invited to join the Royal Yachting Association’s Youth Squad and while studying for his maritime studies degree at Southampton Solent University he realised he may have the talent to make sailing his career.

Now based in Weymouth, Dorset, the home of the London 2012 Olympic sailing regatta, Goodison remains resolutely loyal to his roots. Training and competition may see him spend weeks on end abroad but he returns to see his parents Roy and Cynthia at their Greasbrough home as often as possible or ‘whenever mum gets aggravated she’s not seen me for a while. It’s a great place to come back to and relax.

‘Last year was definitely the best year of my life in terms of results.  Now it’s all about trying to repeat that form through 2010 building up to the Olympic selection trials in 2011 and then looking ahead to London 2012. Winning Olympic gold on home waters would be such a high.’You can bet Sheffield United will back him all the way.