Birthdate: April 26, 1988
Birthplace: Orange, Calif.
Hometown: Miami, Fla.
High School: Naples High School (Graduated 2005)
College: Brevard Community College (Completed Two Years)
US Sailing Team Alphagraphics: 2006-08
Member of: Banana River Windsurfing Resort
Occupation: Full-Time Sailor
Sailing Since Age: 14
As a young teen, when Nancy Rios returned to the United States from a summer-long visit with her mother's family in Mexico, a lot had changed at home. For one, all her family members had become avid windsurfers in her absence.
"They all had their own boards, and encouraged me to try it," she remembers.
For an entire family to suddenly embrace a new sport may sound unusual - until you learn that outdoor adventure is a big part of life in the Rios family. For several years, Rios's parents ran an adventure sports business in Huatulco, Mexico, south of Acapulco. They offered river rafting, waterskiing, deep sea fishing, horseback riding on the beach, forays into the mountains to tour the coffee plantations, and other activities.
Adding another outdoor sport to their lives was, to Rios, not a surprise. But not even Rios herself predicted that windsurfing would grow to become such a big part of her own life.
Rios's involvement in the competitive side of the sport grew gradually, and her first world championship regatta was overwhelming. But she kept sailing, and when the windsurfing equipment changed after the 2004 Games, from the Mistral to the current Neil Pryde RS:X, she was ready to give an Olympic effort a try.
"The change in equipment was a new opportunity," she says, "and I thought, ‘Why not? Everyone else will also be starting on new equipment.'"
Born in California, Nancy Rios spent her childhood between the U.S. and Mexico. After leaving Huatulco, she and her family moved far north to Washington State to be closer to family - and snow. She settled in Florida, where she now lives, since 2001.
As Rios looks at her own Olympic path, she sees both challenges and rewards. Fundraising to keep competing against a world-class fleet remains a continual challenge. The RS:X class does not have the same kind of population that a class like the Laser or Laser Radial has, so Rios misses the camaraderie of training in a big U.S. field.
One of the most rewarding aspects of being an Olympian has been the opportunity to train hard as an athlete - and Rios credits US SAILING's Performance Enhancement Team for bringing her athletic training to an elite level. Says Rios: "I have learned so much about being an athlete."
As a young woman at the start of her athletic career, she finds the international field in this physically demanding sport to be full of role models, such as multiple Olympic medalist Barbara Kendall of New Zealand and current world champion Alessandra Sensini of Italy.
"When I think, ‘Oh, this is so hard and I am so tired and my body hurts,'" she says, of competing in a particularly grueling regatta, "I look around at those smart sailors and see how fit they are - and they inspire me."
SIGNIFICANT SAILING ACHIEVEMENTS:
- Ranked No. 1 on the US Sailing Team - RS:X Women (2006-08)
- Won the 2006 US SAILING Pre-Trials by winning six out of eight races
- 60th Neil Pryde RS:X World Championship/Takapuna, New Zealand (top U.S. finisher)
- 1st U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Sailing/Long Beach, Calif.
- 5th Pan American Games/Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
- 21st - US SAILING's Rolex Miami OCR/Miami, Fla. (top U.S. finisher)
- 1st US SAILING Pre-Trials/Long Beach, Calif.
- 11th - US SAILING's Rolex Miami OCR