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Burling (21) was a sailing prodigy from the start and competed in the Optimist world championships at the age of 11.
He was the youngest to win the 420 world championships when he won the event at the Canary Islands at the age of 15.
He retained the title six months later, at Takapuna in Auckland.
He was aged 17 and was the youngest member of the New Zealand team when he competed in the 470 class at the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008. He finished 11th.
''It was a good eye-opener for the London Games,'' he said.
''I learned how polished my campaign had to be. You can't afford to make any mistakes when it comes to that final hurdle.
''It helped me this year, because I had seen it all before. It helped with my planning, because I knew what to expect.''
It all came to fruition at this year's Olympic Games when he and Blair Tuke won the silver medal in the 49er class.
A lot of thoughts went through his mind as he stood on the Olympic podium.
''It was a pretty cool experience,'' he said.
''It was a bit weird, because we knew we had won the medal a couple of days beforehand.''
The medals were presented by board sailing great Barbara Kendall.
''She was a cool person to present the medals to us,'' Burling said.
''It was pretty special.''
They celebrated early and still had to sail the final race of the Olympic regatta.
''It was cool sailing around and knowing that the result didn't really matter and just having fun with it,'' he said.
''We came in and celebrated with the other Kiwis in the village and then saw our friends who were outside.''
Burling grew up around the water in Tauranga and started sailing at the age of 8, when he followed his brother Scott into the sport.
He had his first highlight at the age of 11, when he competed against the Aucklanders and finished second in the Optimist at the New Zealand championships.
The biggest influence on his sailing career was his father, Richard Burling.
Burling and Tuke will decide whether to stay in the same boat for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics when they race against in the 49ers next February.
At a glance
• Age: 21.
• Home town: Tauranga.
• Sport: Yachting.
• Record: 420 world champion (2006, 2007), 2008 Olympic Games 470 class (11th), Silver medal 49er world championships (2011, 2012), 2012 Olympics 49er class with Blair Tuke (2nd).