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Team USA Spotlight: Rick Doerr


Paralympic Sailor, Darien, CT
Prior Games: Beijing ’08

Paralyzed in a car accident in the ‘90s, Doerr has been competing in (and winning) Paralympic events for over a decade, making him a veteran on the international sailing scene. This summer, the plastic and reconstructive surgeon will compete in his second Paralympic Games.

Where do you sail in Darien? Our home port is the Noroton Yacht Club. Our club has a proud and lengthy history of very accomplished sailors. I’ve been lucky to derive knowledge from [them] as well as endure very fierce competition with them. The sailing conditions here are some of the most challenging in the world, with wheelchair friendly facilities.

What advice do you give to younger competitors? It’s about the journey. So many of us are results oriented, but the process of getting there provides great memories and great experiences.

How does being a sailor impact your career as a physician? Activity is the recipe for success. The demands of the sailing career make you very focused when you return to your day job, as free time is rare. You learn to manage your time and balance it so as to get all your work done in the short time available. While I’m traveling I spend my free time thinking about cases, reading medical articles and planning patient care for when I return. Although it may sound like a distraction, it actually serves to keep me sharp, in both lives.

What are you most looking forward to about Rio? The beauty of traveling to a foreign land, sailing on the beautiful bay and waterfront of Rio, and enjoying the competition against the best in the world, for it may be the last time we all face each other. This is the last sailing competition in the Paralympics as IPC [the International Paralympic Committee] has dropped our sport, so I will indeed miss the company of some exemplary and extraordinary athletes. Once in the athlete village, meeting all the athletes is awe inspiring, not to mention the grandeur of the opening and closing ceremonies.

What are your goals for these Games? We are sailing in the three-man Paralympic sailing competition, in the Sonar class of sailboat. Our main goals are to stick to what we know and what we’ve trained to do. I believe that chance favors the prepared mind, so thorough training should reduce the uncertainty that is wind, water and waves.

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