LI’s Olympic Hopefuls Aim For Gold in London


HUNTINGTON’S ERIK STORCK, BAYPORT'S DEBBIE CAPOZZI (pictured), AND SHELTER ISLAND’S AMANDA CLARK JOINED DOZENS OF WELL-WISHERS AT A SEND-OFF AT LARCHMONT YACHT CLUB IN WESTCHESTER JULY 14. THE TRIO ARE PART OF THE 16-MEMBER USA SAILING TEAM HEADED TO THE 2012 OLYMPIC GAMES IN LONDON. (Photo: US Sailing)


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Deb Capozzi – Commitment

This summer you won’t find 28-year-old Debbie Capozzi behind the counter of Tina’s Italian Ices in Patchogue, her family’s shop on the South Shore. Instead, Capozzi will be competing as a part of the USA’s top sailing team with Clark and Storck.

Since Capozzi was 7 years old, summertime has meant two things for the Bayport native: sailing and ice treats. Her parents, who named the store after their youngest daughter, Tina, enrolled Capozzi in sailing lessons at the Sayville Yacht Club as a child.

“Early on, you knew Debbie was going to be successful,” says her father Mike, beaming as he glances over at the athlete. “She is a great competitor.”

Once, when Debbie was 8, he recalls, she fell overboard while sailing in a regatta—yet somehow managed to hold on with one hand. That relentless drive to succeed continues to guide her, says her dad.

“She is unbelievable,” he adds. “Winning or losing, she can put it behind her and go forward.”

Debbie’s entire family—immediate and extended—joined her at the Larchmont Yacht Club sendoff, where she was surrounded by a brood of Capozzi children wearing matching navy Polo jerseys with her name across their backs. Her three siblings, she says, pick up the slack at the store when she is competing and they’ve been along for the entire ride.

“Your family has to sacrifice more than you do,” contends Capozzi. “They spend a lot of time driving me to airports or sailing competitions.”

Capozzi competed in the Beijing Olympics in 2008. She didn’t return home with a medal, but believes the competition helped prepare her for London.

“I have more experience and knowledge,” she says.

This time around Capozzi won’t be racing in the Yngling class, as she did in Beijing, since it will not be part of the 2012 competition. Instead, she’ll be competing in a three-person women’s match racing 6-meter boat with a new crew of teammates: 30-year-old Molly Vandemoer, of Stanford, Calif., and Olympic Laser Radial gold medalist Anna Tunnicliffe, 29, of Plantation, Fla.

Capozzi says they’ve known each other for five years, which goes a long way in the heat of battle.

“We are really good friends on and off the water,” she says. “It is quite easy to do the hard work when you are having fun.”

Taking the stage at the send-off party, Capozzi, who is short with dark hair that is pulled back, stands apart from the mostly blonde 16-member sailing team. She and her two crewmates, who are currently ranked number one in the world, garner the loudest applause yet from the crowd. Going in to the games with the success that they’ve already had eases their nerves, says Capozzi.

“It is stressful for some people, but we have done all of our homework,” she adds. “I am more excited.”

Her family hopes she’ll return with a medal. In the meantime, they’re hanging a big banner outside their Italian ice shop in her honor.

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