Even in Poland, Barbara Kendall was famous and now a young Polish boardsailor is keen for the name of Kosinska to rate up there with Kendall in New Zealand windsurfing.

The Poles have some of the best sailors in the world; their men took gold and silver at the 2010 world championships. One of their former champions, Natalia Kosinska, now calls New Zealand home and aims to represent her adopted country at the London Olympics in 2012.

"Even in Poland Barbara Kendall was a guru when I was young," recalls Kosinska. "I don't know if I can be the next Barbara - but I certainly want to try."

"She has made a lot of progress in a short space of time," says coach Dave Robertson. "If she keeps improving at the same rate over the next eight months then anything is possible."

Kosinska, 29, was the youth world champion in 1999. She then narrowly missed selection for the Sydney Olympics, coming second in the trials. She enjoyed several top-five finishes at world cup regattas in the early 2000s but missed the cut for Athens. After finishing a disappointing 17th at the 2005 world championships, she packed the board away and went to Australia to study.

Kosinka moved to New Zealand in 2007 and immediately felt more comfortable on this side of the Tasman.

"It was so dry and hot there," she laughs. "I much prefer New Zealand. I also think the people in Australia are over confident - though sometimes I think that Kiwis are not confident enough."

She took an administration job with the Yachting New Zealand high performance programme and was subsequently hired as coach of the female boardsailors. She quit after just a few months; the urge to compete had returned and she decided to get back on the board.

"It was a tricky situation," Kosinska recalls. "I went from being their coach to being a team-mate [and] also a rival. I think we still get on okay. I was coaching them for a few months but they were not doing as well as they could. I thought if I get back on the board, I might just be better."

"It is such a competitive situation that there will always be personality clashes," says Robertson. "But the goal is to get two sailors into the world's top 10, then the best one to the Olympics. They all train together now and get on okay."

Poland had four males in the top 15 at the last world championships and three females in the top dozen. Kosinska says that the sport is "very trendy" in the Baltic nation; there are 15 windsurfing schools in one spot about the size of Long Bay on the Baltic coastline. Their most recent world champion was even a contestant on Poland's version of Dancing with the Stars - quite a contrast with Tom Ashley's profile here.

Kosinska finished 24th at a world cup event in Weymouth (the Olympic venue) in June; the best-performed Kiwi. She was 38th at the world championships; her main rival Kate Ellingham was 34th. Ellingham finished 11th at the 2009 world championships, but has since been hampered by a back injury.

To qualify the class for the Olympics, one of them has to finish among the top 25 nations at the world championships next year. "Natalia is super competitive," says coach Robertson. "She is a pretty determined person and can come across as quite aggressive on the water. In the light winds she is right up there; in medium to high winds there is still quite a bit of work to do - [though] she has made some big gains in those conditions."

"I need to win the nationals [in Auckland in February]," she says. "From there the rest is up to me; I just have to perform. I think I can make the medal race at the Olympics; it is do-able.

"If I didn't believe I could do really well then I wouldn't bother," she says, "because I am investing a lot of money and time. I was sailing for fun [back] then [for Poland]. It is still fun now but I am more professional and I know what I want."