“I now feel that a gold medal at the Paralympics has the same worth as a gold medal at the Olympics.”
Great Britain’s Helena Lucas radiates ambition and at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games she aims to become the first Paralympic sailor in history to defend a gold medal.
At London 2012 she topped the podium in the 2.4mR single-person keelboat class and her outstanding contribution to sport was recognised with an MBE in 2013 from Queen Elizabeth II.
“It was the most inspirational and emotional moment of my life. To see the British public embrace the Paralympic Games and the athletes made it the most special Paralympics yet,” said Lucas who finished seventh four years earlier in Beijing, China.
Despite her landmark success at London 2012, Lucas – who was born with defects in both thumbs - never considered herself a para-athlete until failed attempts to make it to the Sydney and Athens Olympic Games led her to disabled sailing in 2004.
This November she will compete at the World Championships in Melbourne, Australia, which acts as the final country qualifier for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
Lucas who says she has “a desire to win and to never give up” is targeting the world title but knows that to win she will most likely have to beat London 2012 silver medallist Heiko Kroeger and Damien Seguin, Paralympic champion in Athens and silver medallist in Beijing.
“Ever since I started sailing in the 2.4mR class in 2004 I have always been fighting it out on the podium with them,” said Lucas who describes her sport as “an all-round test of an athlete”.
Lucas started sailing at the age of eight and holds a university degree in Yacht and Power Craft Design. Despite not fulfilling an ambition to compete in the Olympics in her early adult life, she is proud of her Paralympic achievements.
“I now feel that a gold medal at the Paralympics has the same worth as a gold medal at the Olympics. So having won a Paralympic gold medal at my home Games, I'm going to struggle to better that moment.”
As well as considering the Paralympics to now be on a par with the Olympics, Lucas believes that London 2012 changed the perception of Paralympic athletes forever.
“I think for the first time we felt valued as athletes and viewed in the same light as our fellow Olympians, something I hope will continue at future Games.”
In January Lucas competed in the first World Cup of the season in Miami, USA, where a combination of tough weather conditions, a retirement and an OCS (false start penalty) left her with an eighth place finish.
“The conditions were quite different to the normal light winds we expect in Miami,” said Lucas. “I was happy with my speed and without those two big mistakes the results could have been quite different.”
Beyond the World Championships and moving into 2016, Lucas has her sights on the blue waves of the Copacabana.
“It would be great to win again in Rio and that's what drives me on, but it will never be quite as special as gold at your home Games!”
The Sailing World Championships will be hosted by the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria in Williamstown near Melbourne from 26 November to 3 December 2015. Over 30 countries are expected to be represented with almost 150 athletes competing at the event.