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12-year-old Hampshire sailor Billy Vennis-Ozanne crowned world champion
HE has battled a heart condition, only began sailing a few years ago and is just 12 years old.
But Hampshire youngster Billy Vennis-Ozanne now has his sights firmly set on the 2020 Olympics – after being crowned a sailing world champion.
Billy won the junior RS Tera World Championships, held in Italy, and has revealed a long-term ambition to emulate his sailing heroes.
The Crofton School pupil was given a boost shortly before the competition when he met Lymington gold medallist Ben Ainslie in Weymouth and received advice from the four-time Olympic champion, as well as some of the other Team GB members.
The victory in Italy was all the more special, as Billy had to overcome a serious heart problem on his way to winning the title.
He was born with a defect known as TGV, which in Billy’s case meant that two of his arteries were the wrong way round.
The condition was discovered at birth and required Billy, from Hill Head, Fareham , to undergo major open heart surgery to correct the problem at Evelina Children’s Hospital, in London, when he was just 20 days old. He still has a yearly check-up, but says the issue does not affect him.
Speaking after winning in Italy, Billy said: “I knew I had done what I needed to do for me to win as soon as I crossed the line. But it wasn’t until I got the trophy that it started to sink in.”
Billy, who began sailing aged five, faced massive challenges in what was his first ever World Championships after his single-handed dinghy was severely damaged during the racing.
But in the final phase he was able to move from seventh position to third – enough to put him top of the leader board and leave his parents beaming with pride.
His dad, Andre, said: “I was on the finish line and knew when he crossed the line.”
Billy says he hopes to compete in the 49er class in the 2020 Olympics But he will first concentrate on keeping his title at next year’s World Championships, which will be held in Weymouth in July and August.