Jo Aleh was inspired to take up sailing after watching Team New Zealand's 1995 America's Cup win.
And her years of dedication to the sport paid off when she and team-mate Olivia "Polly" Powrie sailed their way into the history books by beating Great Britain on Saturday for an Olympic gold medal.
Miss Aleh, now a Muriwai resident, attended Henderson's Bruce McLaren Intermediate School and launched her sailing career at the age of 11. She later joined Kohimarama Yacht Club.
Former school principal David Crickmer was in charge when Miss Aleh was a pupil and remembers her as a quiet achiever who just got on with things.
"Speaking to her teachers at the time they sung her praises as a lovely student."
Ex-commodore of Kohimarama Yacht Club Alan Bilkey says there was something special about Miss Aleh and Miss Powrie.
"Jo was from a non-sailing background and as soon as she got into a boat she loved it. She was so dedicated to it and was top of her class and she would beat the boys too.
"We'd have fun prizes to motivate the girls because the boys would normally do better. But when Jo came along we started giving out fun prizes for the boys.
"Polly became addicted to the sport through her two older siblings. She did very well too and you could see these girls coming. They were going to be great."
Mr Bilkey says the yacht club is delighted with their success.
"The club is run by parents for the kids only and so we all feel part of it when the members are successful."
Miss Aleh, 26, and Miss Powrie, 24, teamed up to win the 420 world championships in 2007 but Miss Aleh focused on the single-handed Laser Radial for the Beijing Olympics, where she finished seventh.
They reunited and moved into the 470 class after Beijing and earned top four success at three world championships - but their goal was always the Olympics.
The pair, known as Team Jolly, navigated their boat dubbed Muppet around four courses during the heats and held their nerve throughout.
Britain's Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark were outwitted by the Kiwis in the double-point medal race.
The Brits had less experience in match racing scenarios and it showed. They were off to a positive start in 5 to 6 knot winds but Miss Aleh immediately tacked away. Miss Mills decided not to follow, forcing huge separation up the first beat. New Zealand got the best side of the course and by the first mark the Brits were trailing by 200 metres and never recovered.
Officials then decided to shorten the course due to lack of wind and Britain had to settle for silver.
Team Jolly embraced as they crossed the line.
Miss Powrie's former sailing partner Melinda Henshaw says that seeing the podium finish was a proud day for all 470 sailors.
"We've been trying for years and years to get up on that podium and they've finally done it.
"Quite often age and Olympic experience can help you do well in this sport because 470 is a really technical class and requires a certain amount of apprenticeship hours."
The victory was New Zealand's first Olympic gold in the sport since 1984.
- © Fairfax NZ News