The sailor that took on Seoul 1988

Skipper Peter Holmberg of Oracle racing (USA 76) prior to their race with Mascalzone Latino XII (ITA 72) on the race course on Aucklands' Waitemata Harbour during the Challenger Series (Photo by Michael Bradley/Getty Images)
Skipper Peter Holmberg of Oracle racing (USA 76) prior to their race with Mascalzone Latino XII (ITA 72) on the race course on Aucklands' Waitemata Harbour during the Challenger Series (Photo by Michael Bradley/Getty Images)

While winning an Olympic medal is a personal goal for thousands of athletes, for 24 nations it is a dream that has only ever come true once. Tokyo2020.org looks at the glorious moment and the impact it had on the lives of the athletes who achieved it.

The background

The name Peter Holmberg will forever be synonymous with sailing in the Virgin Islands, US. His love and commitment to the sport saw him win the nations first and still only Olympic medal.

Born on St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, both Holmberg and his elder brother were introduced to sailing from a very young by their parents. Their dad, Richard, was based in St. Thomas while serving in the Navy and after returning to the Caribbean island for a honeymoon, he never left. He even competed at the Munich 1972 Olympics for the Virgin Islands.

So you could say being an Olympian ran in the family.

By the age of nine, Holmberg was competing at national events and at 16 he finished third at the Sunfish World Championships.

After his schooling, which saw him attend Sonoma State University to compete on the sailing team and graduate with a Bachelor in Management, Holmberg returned home where he set his sights on the Los Angeles 1984 Games.

The then 24-year-old chose to compete in the single handed Finn class. After training locally he had raised enough funds to purchase a Finn and headed to the United States for a further year of training.

He finished 11th among a 36-boat field at Los Angeles 1984.

History in the making

After his Los Angeles 1984 exploits, Holmberg zoned in on his bid to represent the Virgin Islands on the biggest stage once again, this time the 1988 Olympic Games.

With lesson taken from Los Angeles 1984, Holmberg travelled to the Republic of Korea a year prior to the Games to compete in the Pre-Olympic Regatta. Despite finishing eighth, he earned a wealth of knowledge.

He decided to purchase a Korean-made Finn and train in the waters in the Virgin Island which best replicated the rough sailing conditions off the coast of Busan.

Despite a shaky start to the competition, Holmberg's plans worked. He won a silver in Men’s Finn Class, the Virgin Islands, US - its only Olympic medal to date.

Peter Holmberg and Larry Ellison of Oracle talk after Race 6 of the Cup Final between Alinghi of Switzerland and Oracle of the USA in 2003. Alinghi won the final 5 races to 1. Alinghi would face Team New Zealand in the America's Cup. (Photo by Nick Wilson/Getty Images)
Peter Holmberg and Larry Ellison of Oracle talk after Race 6 of the Cup Final between Alinghi of Switzerland and Oracle of the USA in 2003. Alinghi won the final 5 races to 1. Alinghi would face Team New Zealand in the America's Cup. (Photo by Nick Wilson/Getty Images)
2003 Getty Images

Life-changing impact

Following his Olympic success, Holmberg won the 1990 Maxi World Championships with Matador 2 but perhaps, his greatest feat was yet to come.

In 1996, Holmberg formed Team Caribbean for the 2000 America’s Cup in New Zealand. The America's Cup is the oldest trophy in international sport.

While an astounding $5 million was raised, it was not enough by the deadline to start boat construction. Team Caribbean opted to merge with Team Dennis Conner with Holmberg joining Stars & Stripes, competing in the 2000 America’s Cup Challenger Selection Series where Team Dennis Conner finished third.

For the 2003 America’s Cup, Holmberg joined Oracle Team, finishing a close second in the Challenger Series. However, it was third time lucky as the Olympic silver medallist joined 2003 America’s Cup winner Alinghi of Switzerland ahead of the 2007 edition of the prestigious race.

After years of intensive training in Europe, Alinghi successfully defend the 2007 America’s Cup.

To this day, Holmberg is still heavily involved in the sailing community in the Virgin Islands, US.