Kingston at the Olympics: Alexandra ten Hove Takes on Tokyo 2020

By Emily Coppella

Put simply, sailing has always been a part of Alexandra’s (Ali) ten Hove’s life. As a youth, she raced Optis and 420s, winning multiple national and North American titles and representing Canada at two Youth World Championships. Her own father, Martin ten Hove, competed in sailing at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Now, it’s Ali ten Hove’s turn to compete for Canada at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in sailing in the 49er – Skipper class. The world’s most prestigious sports competition is on the horizon for ten Hove, and she’s reflecting on why growing up in Kingston was critical to her Olympic journey.

Born and raised here, ten Hove spent her childhood watching her father race and participate in regattas. Her parents signed her up to the Kingston Yacht Club (KYC) Junior Sailing program as a child and she fell in love with the sport. After aging out of youth competitions, she transitioned to the 470 and had her first experience running an Olympic campaign from 2013 to 2016. She competed at numerous World Cup events and World Championships, narrowly missing the opportunity to compete at the 2016 Games in Rio. When she became a skipper in the 49er FX class she met her current teammate, Mariah Millen. The ten Hove and Millen team have won numerous national titles and their fourth-place finish at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima earned them their spot at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic games. We spoke with Ali ten Hove to learn more about how her hometown helped her sail to the Games.

Ten Hove believes Kingston’s physical landscape plays a part in nurturing her sailing skills, but more importantly, it’s the resources and sailing community that contribute to Kingston’s sailing legacy. “I was really lucky to grow up out of the Kingston sailing community and specifically the Kingston Yacht Club because there would be sailors around who were past world champions, Pan Am medallists, past Olympians…and I think Kingston has a really incredible theme of giving back and I try to embody this theme as well. People within Kingston and in the Kingston sailing community really want to pass along their knowledge so I definitely benefitted from that firsthand. It’s definitely a main reason I am where I am today.”

Some other supports in the Kingston community she praises include organizations like Canadian Olympic-training Regatta, Kingston, widely known as CORK. Almost every year of her sailing career, ten Hove has participated in a CORK event. The team works tirelessly to bring high-profile, international events such as the Junior World Championships or the Laser Worlds to Kingston home waters. When she speaks of the organization, it’s with nothing but gratitude and pride.

Speaking of working tirelessly, ten Hove herself believes she’s only able to succeed the way she does because of the people who motivate her.

“What keeps me going is all the people that support me and are behind me and have believed in me and given me unconditional support. In a sporting career it’s not always going to be all ups. There’s some highs and some lows and my support team is so incredible, people who donate financially to me, donate time, just really believe in me, and believe that I would get to the Olympics and would be representing Canada. Just having them in my corner is what keeps me going.”

After a lifetime of support from Kingston, ten Hove is giving back by focusing on improving the low retention rate for young women in the sport of sailing. She credits the skills learned in sport for shaping the person she is today and decided to run a series of workshops and camps called, “Women Sailing to Success.”

“These camps are geared towards exposing young girls and young women to what the world of Olympic sailing looks like, what opportunities are offered, the skills you can learn and it just provides a place for young girls and young women in Canada to network with each other. Sailing is such a niche sport and I think having that community aspect is really important and also having a strong female role model to look up to, to say, ‘Look she did it, I can do that too.’”

Feedback has been more than positive for these workshops, with some young women who attended deciding to pursue Olympic sailing. Ten Hove recently saw some of them at the waterfront trying out their new Olympic-class boat for the first time. Ali ten Hove has been on the national team and competing on the World Cup circuit for eight years so far. While her athletic journey is far from over, she’s also bearing witness to Kingston’s next generation of professional sailors.

“I want to emphasize how thankful I am to the Kingston community for their support over the years. I feel really blessed to come from such a supportive community like Kingston and I’m really excited and proud to represent them on the world stage at the Olympics this summer.”

Read more stories: Kingston Athletes at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics