Olympics / Sailing / The Odd Couple With Ambition

Vered Buskila and Gil Cohen are totally different personalities, but agree their medal hopes are realistic.

Nearly 10 years separate Vered Buskila and Gil Cohen, a rare gap for sailing partners. "We weren't supposed to meet in this life," says Buskila, 29, who competed in the previous two Olympiads with Nike Kornecki. Buskila and Kornecki nearly won bronze in Beijing in 2008.

Cohen, 20, joined Buskila's crew two years ago, signaling the beginning of a partnership between two completely different women. While Buskila is experienced and talkative, Cohen comes across as introverted and quiet.

Buskila says she had known only Kornecki and suddenly had to adjust to life with another crew mate. "The dynamic is different," she says. "I had to get to know her, to see how I could get the best out of her and she the best out of me."

She says over time Cohen learned that Buskila also has hardships.

"I also learned a lot from her," notes Buskila. "I try to draw on her uncompromising faith, to fantasize that anything is possible for us. I won't be an Olympic medalist if I don't think that I deserve this moment and that I'm the best. I need to put my fears and difficulties aside."

Cohen says the two are maintaining a professional relationship. "The differences between us are too great for us to be real friends, considering both the age and that we are in slightly different places," she says. "I can turn to her, but right now it doesn't come naturally. Maybe it'll change in future."

Buskila concurs the pair are still not totally comfortable with each other. "I believe our relationship will look totally different after the Olympics," she says. "Your maturity level always jumps after the Games, and then the partners' relationship moves forward. I think she just doesn't feel comfortable bothering me with her personal problems. She's very important to me, and I really care for her. She's like a sister to me."

Despite the substantive differences, the two have enjoyed much success together, including fourth place in the 2011 World Championships. The two say that showing was encouraging. "I learned a lot from Vered about getting organized with the boat," says Cohen, who makes sure in every race to have a mountain bike available in case she needs to clear her mind.

Buskila says the two constantly work on improving things, most recently their starts.

Their first race at Weymouth is not until August 3, and although she expects the opening ceremony to be full of excitement Cohen says she can't wait to get started. "I'm don't really like all the run-up," she says. "We're going there to compete, no? I have dreamed about this moment since I was a little child and I want to win a medal. It's realistic and it's within reach. We need to come focused. We hope the winds will be medium-strength or a little stronger, but even if it'll be a little weak it will be okay."

The more veteran Buskila says she only started feeling the pressure just before the flight to London. "It's not an insane pressure because we have another two weeks, but it's there," she says. "I suddenly noticed that I was talking to people and wasn't 100 percent there, so I realized that I wasn't being completely myself. I think the moment I'll start the routine in Weymouth I'll return to myself. It's my third Olympiad and I'm approaching it differently. The excitement for the Games, anyway, hasn't changed. I want to win a medal - clear and simple. I want to reach the medals race and be in the running. We should have the option of winning, otherwise I'll feel terribly superfluous. This Olympiad is a celebration of winners, and I want to be a winner."

Nir Keidar