Class: Neil Pryde RS:X

Position: Skipper

Birthplace: Greenville, Texas

Hometown: Tampa, Fla.

High School: Lakewood High School

College: Eckerd College

US Sailing Team Alphagraphics: 2001, 2003-04, 2006-08

Member of: Davis Island Yacht Club/St. Petersburg Yacht Club

Occupation: Business Consultant/Marketing And Nutrition

Sailing Since Age: 8

Personal:
When Ben Barger returned home to Florida from the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Sailing, he didn't have a handful of friends and family waiting for him at the airport, he had a crowd of 60.

Family and friends from Barger's present and past flocked to Tampa International Airport to cheer home a victory that was particularly sweet for this Tampa Bay sailor.

Four years prior, Barger was primed for the U.S. Trials for the 2004 Games. Early in that quadrennium, he camped out on the doorstep of U.S. Olympic windsurfing medalist Mike Gebhardt - who had dominated men's boardsailing in the U.S. since the late 1980s and whose example had inspired Barger to become an Olympian - hoping to learn from a master in the sport.

Gebhardt coached him for the Trials, but the regatta did not result in a ticket to Athens for Barger. "I came in second to Peter Wells - and that was, obviously, heartbreaking."

Barger resolved to try again for 2008. In the interim, Olympic windsurfing made a switch from the Mistral to the Neil Pryde RS:X, and, as Barger says, "Everyone was trying to figure it out." But the new equipment was minor compared to the news he learned 10 months prior to the Trials - at age 41, Mike Gebhardt was returning to the Trials for yet another shot at Olympic glory.

At mid-point in the 16-race Trials, Barger and Gebhardt were tied in points, but a disastrous collision on the race course sealed Barger's fate. His board was damaged but not his resolve to win.

Barger won the last four races of the regatta to capture the U.S. berth at this winner-takes-all event. Barger considers the 2008 Trials - marked by an intensity he had yet to experience on the water - a turning point in his sailing career.

Growing up on the West Coast of Florida, Barger was first a multihull sailor with his father Jim Barger on the family's Corsair F27. On a cruise to the Bahamas, a young Barger spent his cruising days windsurfing in the Abacos, and once home, he was smitten. "I waited for my dad to come home from work every day, to take me down to the water," he says. Initially, sailboarding was a fun escape; it became a serious competitive goal in his late teens.  

Today, Barger balances Olympic training at home in Tampa, Fla., with life with his wife, Anja, and work as a business consultant in web marketing and nutrition.

The Olympic experience has made Barger mentally tougher. After championing a challenging Trials, he is looking for a personal best at the Olympic regatta, where the options for glory are slightly wider - not winner-take-all but gold, silver, or bronze.

SIGNIFICANT SAILING ACHIEVEMENTS:

  • Winning all races of the 2006 US SAILING Pre-Trials

SAILING RESUME:
2007: 1st U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Sailing/Long Beach, Calif.
3rd Kiel Week (Kieler Woche)/Kiel, Germany
5th XV Pan American Games/Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
22nd US SAILING's Rolex Miami OCR/Miami, Fla. (top U.S. finisher)

2006:
1st US SAILING Pre-Trials/Long Beach, Calif.