Saskia Sills on overcoming challenges and riding the waves of success
3 min read

Saskia Sills on overcoming challenges and riding the waves of success

We are delighted to showcase four-time Youth World Champion windsurfer, 2019 RSX Series Silver Medallist, and Paris 2024 Olympics iQFoil gold medal hopeful, Saskia Sills, as part of our Empower Hour series which highlights athletes who have excelled in the face of adversity

Saskia has truly triumphed against the odds having faced illness, injury and the pressures of study while windsurfing competitively. We hope that Saskia’s incredible journey and infallible positive attitude to life will help inspire you to strive for success in the face of any obstacles you may encounter.

Set bite-size goals

It goes without saying that setting goals is an important part of the journey towards becoming a successful athlete, and Saskia’s methods have been no different. Despite ups and downs in her career — such as illness, injuries and the impact of Covid-19 — she has managed to stay on track with her plans and keep her eye on the prize. She hasn’t allowed setbacks to deter her plans for gold at the Paris 2024 Olympics and is working hard to make that dream a reality. She says she does this by setting herself manageable targets that help her get to where she wants to be: “I think, to really stay motivated and true to your goals, you have to work from the very top of your big long-term goal, and really work down to the tiny intricate details.”

It can be easy to look at the bigger picture of what we want in life — professionally and personally — and become overwhelmed by the seemingly enormous leaps it may take to get there. According to Saskia, having long-term goals and breaking them up into manageable, bite-sized chunks, is a really clever way of giving your plans momentum without them becoming overwhelming. “Making my goals less overwhelming is making them so small that I can literally day by day, tick off successes and celebrate the small wins,” she says, noting that “the key to a good goal is to a hundred percent believe in it and a hundred percent know why you want to achieve that goal.”

Maintain a positive mindset to overcome setbacks

When Saskia turned 17, she was diagnosed with Celiac disease — a serious autoimmune condition, where the consumption of gluten can lead to damage in the small intestine. This led to her stepping back and making some difficult transitions in her life. Because the disease took a toll on her strength, she had to take a year off training and competing, which impacted the trajectory of her athletic plans. As well as this, aged 20 Saskia had compartment syndrome surgery in both forearms — an injury that can occur from overuse — and she also recently suffered from both glandular fever and chronic fatigue.

Saskia kept a positive mindset and kept her motivation afloat by accepting her situation and adjusting her goals to work with her circumstance. “The way that I keep motivated and keep going forward is to just move the goalpost. The track that you’re on right now may not be the straight way to the top of the mountain, but there is still a road to the top of the mountain, you just have to kind of keep the top of the mountain your goal.”

Balance your priorities

As a passionate young athlete, Saskia was under an incredible amount of pressure to divide her time while studying Geography at Bournemouth University. She did this alongside training and competing, which she admits was a trying period in her life: “It was absolutely awful.” Fortunately, the university allowed Saskia to split her final year over two years, so she was able to compete as well as study harmoniously, though this didn’t come without its struggles.

“The way that I coped was by surrounding myself with people I trusted to help me, and I built this network of amazing, incredible people around me that really got me through university and sailing.” There is no doubt that having a great support network can be invaluable to our mental wellness. During this current period of incredible uncertainty, it may feel as though we are being pulled in many different directions, but having a trusted ear to turn to can make all the difference.

The full interview with Saskia is part of our Empower Hour series, which features 10 Olympians, Paralympians and World Record Holders – exclusively on the Dialogue app.

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