Best Local Girl Made Good - 2009
She's a phenomenal talent whose excellence just happens to be in an obscure sport. Tunnicliffe races boats — specifically, the Laser Radial, a dinghy sailed by a single person. The 26-year-old Plantation resident was born in Great Britain and spent part of her childhood in a town in northern Ohio bordering Lake Erie, where, at age 12, she raced small boats. By 14, she was a full-blown prodigy, entering international competitions where her diminutive frame was her only obstacle. Tunnicliffe led her Old Dominion University sailing team to a string of national championships, but she didn't reach the pinnacle of her sport until several years ago, when she moved to South Florida to train full-time on Fort Lauderdale's coast. For the past four years, Tunnicliffe has been a finalist for the highest honor in her sport: the Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year. This past year, after Tunnicliffe reigned as her sport's top-ranked athlete and took home a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics, the Rolex trophy was finally hers. Yet for all this, coverage of Tunnicliffe's sport is so sparse that she must be her own press agent. On her website, Tunnicliffe files detailed blog reports each day of a regatta. In an era of larger-than-life sports figures who churn out meaningless clichés, it's exhilarating to read a first-person account by a world-class athlete — especially one who is so honest about her challenges and so genuine in her respect for her competitors and in her love for her sport.