Bob Willis, the only U.S. Olympic windsurfer from the Midwest, gets his chance Thursday to do Chicago proud.
Willis, 25, heads into Race 6 of 10 in the men's RS:X sailing event in London in 13th place. He started off strong in seventh place and finished Wednesday with an 11th and 25th "in shifty conditions on the tiny Nothe course."
"It was unbelievable racing in front of the 2,000 or so fans on the hill," Willis wrote to supporters on Facebook, noting he's "having an absolute blast out there."
The event, considered RS:X class in the Summer Games, is a vigorous and endurance-testing activity that Willis told NBC Chicago can be even more challenging in the warm breezes of Lake Michigan.
"It’s pretty spectacular,” Willis said before heading to London. “I’m definitely carrying my head pretty high and very proud to represent the Chicago area for Olympic windsurfing.”
Willis began his training in Lake Michigan and joined the Colombia Yacht Club at age 8. He sailed at Connecticut College until he graduated in 2010.
He is the only American windsurfer not from California or Florida.
And while he may have spent time in the waters of Long Island Sound, he said he has a great appreciation for the sailing community on Lake Michigan.
"Chicago sailing is competitive," Willis told NBC Chicago before leaving for London. "A lot of people on the East Coast and West Coast may not respect that, but it's the truth."