Big Medal Day at Rio Games


After a shaky weather forecast and a fear of lack of wind, the Pão de Açucar (Sugarloaf Mountain) course delivered some excellent conditions for four nail-biting Medal Races. The oldest man in the competition, recently recovered from cancer, won a gold medal. Croatia won its first ever Olympic medal in sailing. And that’s just the start of it.

There has been plenty of drama going on across Guanabara Bay besides the four Medal Races at Rio 2016’s Olympic sailing competition. Two gold medals have been decided with a day to spare and the 49erFX Medal Race is set to be a humdinger.

Men’s One Person Dinghy – Laser – Medal Race
Tom Burton (AUS) has won Olympic gold in the Men’s One Person Dinghy after a tense pre-start battle with Tonci Stipanović (CRO). Even if Stipanović let gold slip from his grasp, he has still won Croatia’s first ever medal in Olympic sailing, the silver. Sam Meech (NZL) took bronze.

With the Australian being the only sailor who could threaten Croatian gold, Stipanović engaged Burton in an aggressive duel before the start. However the match racing tactic backfired as the Australian turned the tables on his rival, with Stipanović given a 360 degree penalty by the jury for failing to keep clear of Burton.

Stipanović was a long way last off the start line and had to play catch-up during the race. Burton was near the back too, and Meech was looking to capitalise on the situation with the New Zealander threatening Australia for the silver. However, Burton moved through the fleet to finish third across the line while Stipanović never recovered from his bad start.

Robert Scheidt (BRA) didn’t manage to win a record sixth Olympic sailing medal in front his home crowd, but he still gave the spectators on Flamengo Beach something to cheer about as the Brazilian legend sailed across the finish in first place.

The new Olympic Champion Burton concluded, “A few days into the regatta I thought I was out of it. I had a bit of a bad day and some tough situations but the amount of hours I put into it, the things I sacrificed like my sister’s wedding, I didn’t go to the Opening Ceremony and it’s all worth it now.”

Men’s One Person Dinghy – Laser – Top Three
Gold Medal – Tom Burton (AUS)
Silver Medal – Tonci Stipanović (CRO)
Bronze Medal – Sam Meech (NZL)

Women’s One Person Dinghy – Laser Radial – Medal Race
Marit Bouwmeester (NED) has won the Laser Radial gold medal that eluded her four years ago. Silver went to Annalise Murphy (IRL), a sweet reward after finishing an agonising fourth place at London 2012. Anne-Marie Rindom (DEN) took bronze.

It was a tense Medal Race in light and fluky airs on the Pão de Açucar course in the shadow of Sugarloaf Mountain. Bouwmeester looked to be in a good position during the early stages, but a big split developed in the fleet after the top of the final lap, and the Dutch and Danish contenders were dropped to the back. They could only watch as Murphy and the other front runners sailed away and across the finish line more than a hundred meters ahead.

It was so close between the front five boats on the final run, there was a chance the Irish sailor could steal gold from the Netherlands. But Murphy crossed the line in fifth, yielding the Olympic title to Bouwmeester. With Rindom back in eighth, Murphy had done enough to take silver.

All three sailors celebrated and every one of them looked delighted to have emerged with a medal from perhaps the toughest sailing venue ever seen at an Olympic Games. Bouwmeester now has the gold to go with the silver she took in London 2012.

Bouwmeester now has the gold to go with the silver she took in London 2012. It was a tense moment for the Dutch sailor wondering if she’d done enough for gold. “I didn’t know who finished first when I crossed the line and Annalise looked so happy celebrating and I was like, ‘Do I have it? Do I not have it? I think I have it but I’m not sure.’ I didn’t know – but now it feels so unreal and I am very happy.”

Murphy said, “I don’t know what to feel, I’m really happy, a bit shocked and I don’t think it’s going to sink in for a while. Marit’s been sailing so well for the last eight years, she deserves the gold. It’s an incredible feeling and I’m just so happy that I’m able to turn my fourth in London into a second here.”

Rindom admitted, “I have a little bit of mixed feelings because it was not my best race but in total I’m very satisfied with my results. This was the goal from the beginning and now I made it. So of course I’m happy.”

Paige Railey (USA) finished 10th in the medal race today, but with 22 points, due to a discretionary penalty that was imposed on her. The measurer, Jean-Luc Michon, protested Railey for not complying with the requirement that all Laser Radial sailors qualified to Medal Race place their equipment in the Quarantine Area by 18:00 hrs, Railey placed her equipment in the Quarantine Area at 18:11. The penalty was 2 points added on to her medal race score.

This was not considered to be a deliberate disregard of the rules by Railey. The breach did not affect the fairness of the competition. There was no indication that the breach inconvenienced the equipment measurement process of the Equipment Inspectors as Railey was available 11 minutes after the required time. She filed a request for redress, however, the request was considered invalid as a boat cannot ask for redress under Addendum Q.

Railey came into Rio 2016 with high hopes after getting on the podium at two Laser World Championships in the past four years, and winning her third career Pan American Games medal. Despite that strong track record, and extensive time spent living and training in Rio, a podium performance was not to be for the 2006 World Sailor of the Year and Yachtswoman of the Year.

“Unfortunately my results don’t show the improvement in my sailing over the last few years,” said Railey. “Sometimes, things just don’t go your way. I’ll walk away from Rio with my head held high, and proud to have represented my country.” Despite her frustrations at the Olympics, Railey undoubtedly ranks among the best athletes in the history of the class, with more World Championship medals (five) to her name than any other Radial sailor.

Women’s One Person Dinghy – Laser Radial – Top Three
Gold Medal – Marit Bouwmeester (NED)
Silver Medal – Annalise Murphy (IRL)
Bronze Medal – Anne-Marie Rindom (DEN)

Heavyweight Men’s One Person Dinghy – Finn – Medal Race
Giles Scott (GBR) had already wrapped up the Finn gold medal before contesting the Medal Race today, but Vasilij Zbogar (SLO) secured silver, the third Olympic medal of his career, while Caleb Paine (USA) sailed a great race to clinch bronze on the Pão de Açucar (Sugarloaf Mountain) course.

All ten competitors had a shot at winning a medal of some color, so close were the points going into today’s finale. The exception was four-time and reigning World Champion Scott whose 24-point buffer made him unassailable for the gold medal. Ivan Gaspic (CRO) started the day in bronze medal position but the American Paine sailed better in the moderate winds to finish first across the line, which gave the ecstatic American the medal by a comfortable margin.

Scott said, “It was great to be able to go out and enjoy that race today. The 17th place on day one on the Sugarloaf course was not the way I wanted to start the regatta and it wasn’t until day three or four that I started to believe that the gold was in my grasp. Winning four World Championships is great, but this is one that everyone wants and everyone remembers, so now to have an Olympic gold is a great feeling.”

Zbogar commented, “I feel relieved. I feel relieved that it’s over. It just went well. I was only dreaming of it one week ago. I feel very happy because it’s in a different class. The first two were in a Laser, this is in Finn. I am by far the oldest sailor in the Finn and this result is even more meaningful. My body is a bit old and I was struggling over the last few years and I continue pushing all the time. Fortunately, my mind is still 20 years old and I pushed every race as much as I could.

“I managed to survive the week and I just wanted to be in with a challenge of a medal. I had nothing to gain in the race, I had everything to lose, as Giles had gold. There was a small chance I could lose it. I knew I couldn’t push too much but I did anyway. Second place for me is something unbelievable.”

After USA left London 2012 with no medals, Paine has brought an end to the medal drought for this great sailing nation. “It’s pretty awesome, it’s been a pretty tough regatta and to be able to come away with a medal at the end is a great feeling. It was a tough push and a hard Medal Race but fortunately enough it makes it easier when you hit the right shifts off the bat and I just had to make sure I didn’t mess it up. I was fortunate to establish a lead right ahead of time and let everyone else make mistakes and I sailed the best race I could.”

Heavyweight Men’s One Person Dinghy – Finn – Top Three
Gold Medal – Giles Scott (GBR)
Silver Medal – Vasilij Zbogar (SLO)
Bronze Medal – Caleb Paine (USA)

Mixed Multihull – Nacra 17 – Medal Race
Santiago Lange and Cecilia Carranza Saroli (ARG) have won gold after a heart-stopping Medal Race in the Nacra 17 Mixed Multihull. Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin (AUS) took silver and bronze goes to Thomas Zajac and Tanja Frank (AUT).

The Argentineans made hard work of the Medal Race, picking up a penalty early on to round the first mark at the back. But they fought back to third by the top of the final lap, only to incur another penalty for sailing too close to the Austrians. After dropping the gennaker and taking their 360 penalty turn, Lange and Saroli rallied to cross the finish in sixth place, just seven seconds ahead of the Italians.

It was a crucial seven seconds that gave gold to the Argentineans by a single point from Australia. The young Aussies crossed the finish behind the New Zealand team of Gemma Jones and Jason Saunders (NZL), but more importantly finished 10 seconds ahead of the Austrians who crossed for third place. Australia and Austria were tied on points, but silver goes to Waterhouse and Darmanin for their superior finish in the Medal Race.

It has been an extraordinary Games for Lange, at 54 the oldest competitor in the sailing at Rio 2016. He has had the pleasure of watching his sons, Yago and Klaus, represent the nation in the 49er skiff, and he has survived cancer in the past year.

Lange says the rigors of his sport helped to save his life and return to competition after he lost a lung to cancer just a year ago. His hectic schedule led to diagnosis of the disease, he said, while the experience of five Olympic campaigns, winning two medals along the way, was key in keeping him positive through his ordeal and returning for a sixth challenge.

Lange, with crewmate Carlos Espinola, won bronzes for Argentina at Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 in the now discontinued two-person Tornado class event before combining with Cecilia Carranza Saroli (ARG) in 2014 in the Nacra 17 mixed class, a new addition to the Olympic sailing schedule at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Bora Gulari and Louisa Chafee (USA) finished strong in the Nacra 17 class with a 4th place in Tuesday’s medal race. After an impressive charge up the standings in the 2nd half of the event, the Americans finished 8th overall in the high-speed mixed multihull. “We picked up eight spots in three days in a pretty tough fleet, and I’m pretty proud of that,” said Gulari, a two-time Moth class World Champion and US Sailing Yachtsman of the Year.

The pair had suffered some mishaps earlier in the event when trapeze wire breakages forced their withdrawal from Race 3 and Race 5. “If we hadn’t done that,” said Gulari, “we might have been a heck of a lot closer to the podium, and maybe even pulled it off. Who knows, but I couldn’t be more proud of Louisa or the effort we put forth together.”

Mixed Multihull – Nacra 17 – Top Three
Gold Medal – Santiago Lange and Cecilia Carranza Saroli (ARG)
Silver Medal – Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin (AUS)
Bronze Medal – Thomas Zajac and Tanja Frank (AUT)

Men’s Two Person Dinghy – 470
A remarkable battle for the medals in the 470 men will feature a three-team shoot out on Wednesday, which will be anything but straightforward. Today’s three races didn’t change the leaderboard top three, but did shuffle up the points and order. Remaining firmly in first overall are Croatia’s Sime Fantela and Igor Marenic from a solid 8,6,3 scorecard.

The partnership is the only team to hold all-top ten race results, and sit on an 11 point advantage over Panagotis Mantis and Pavlos Kagialis (GRE). The Greeks went into today in third overall, on a 7 point deficit to Mathew Belcher and Will Ryan (AUS), but turned that around to now hold a 2 point advantage from a superb scorecard of 2,2,2. The Australians will have their work cut out for the gold medal, and may have to decide whether a focus on silver will be their medal race goal.

Stu McNay and Dave Hughes (USA) had a great first race today, winning Race 8, their best race of the series. Their remaining finishes were 11, 15 (which is discarded), ending up in fourth place overall going into the Medal Race. Jacob Chaplin-Saunders and Graeme Chaplin-Saunders (CAN) finished 21, 13, 23 and are in 23rd overall. They will not be racing in the Medal Race.

Results, 470 Men – Top 5 (10 races, 1 discard)
Sime Fantela and Igor Marenic (CRO) 27 points
Panagiotis Mantis and Pavlos Kagialis (GRE) 38
Mat Belcher and Will Ryan (AUS) 40
Stu McNay and Dave Hughes (USA) 67
Anton Dahlberg and Fredrik Bergström (SWE) 69

Women’s Two Person Dinghy – 470
Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark (GBR) had come into Rio 2016 intent on avenging their missed opportunity for gold in 2012, when a 1 point difference awarded them silver and New Zealand’s Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie gold. The Brits didn’t start quite as they intended, but equally they didn’t put a foot wrong, slow and sure-footed was their approach, as they built up from a 6th overall on race day 1 to take the lead from race 5.

Today their four years of preparation since London 2012 paid off in a golden performance, as they extended their lead from 4 points after 7 races, to a gold medal winning 20 points after the 10th race of the opening series. Mills and Clark secured a scorecard of 3,2,3 which put them in an unassailable position.

Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie (NZL) fought the day of their lives in an awe-inspiring delivery of two races wins and a 4th place to climb the leaderboard to 2nd overall, up from 7th at the start of the day. The battle will now unfold for silver and bronze, with all but one of the same ten teams that started today in the medal race hunt.

Annie Haeger and Briana Provancha (USA) had 9’s in all three races today, dropping them in the standings to fourth overall with 51 points, still in the medal hunt. The Americans still have an excellent chance to earn a medal on Wednesday, as they are only three points from silver medal position and one point from bronze.

Results, 470 Women – Top 5 (10 races, 1 discard)
Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark (GBR) 28 points
Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie (NZL) 48
Tina Mrak and Veronika Macarol (SLO) 50
Annie Haeger and Briana Provancha (USA) 51
Camille Lecointre and Helene Defrance (FRA) 52

Women’s Skiff – 49erFX
Four into three, doesn’t go. We know that from watching the Laser Radial Women’s race at London 2012 four years ago. For the 49erFX Women’s Medal Race we are looking at an identical scenario with four crews going into Thursday’s finale on an equal footing. They are Tamara Echegoyen and Berta Betanzos (ESP), Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze (BRA), Jena Hansen and Katja Salskov-Iversen (DEN) and Alex Maloney and Molly Meech (NZL).

The fact that that the fourth-placed New Zealanders sit a point behind the top three tied on 76 points is academic because the Medal Race is a double-pointer. The order that they cross the line will determine what color of medal they win. Or if they will be the unfortunate ones to win nothing at all.

Three of the four teams have won a 49erFX World Championship, the odd ones out being the Danes who do however have a European title. But, any of these teams would happily trade those titles for an Olympic gold at Rio 2016. Only one of these eight sailors, Spain’s Echegoyen, knows what it feels like to be Olympic Champion after winning gold in the Women’s Match Racing four years ago.

Paris Henken and Helena Scutt (USA) had 12, 12, 6 place finishes today. They will be racing in the medal race, having finished 9th overall in the qualifier series. Erin Rafuse and Dannie Boyd (CAN) posted 18, 16, 14 in the three final races. They are placed 16th overall, and do not make the cut for the medal race. The youngest team in the fleet, Henken and Scutt have only been sailing together full-time for a year and a half after balancing training with schoolwork schoolwork prior to deciding to fully commit to a Rio 2016 campaign.

Results, 49erFX Women – Top 5 (12 races, 1 discard)
Tamara Echegoyen Dominguez and Berta Betanzos Moro (ESP) 46 points
Martine Soffiatti Grael and Kahena Kunze (BRA) 46
Jena Hansen and Katja Salskov-Iversen (DEN) 46
Alex Maloney and Molly Meech (NZL) 47
Sarah Steyaert and Aude Compan (FRA) 75

Men’s Skiff – 49er
Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (NZL) have won the 49er Men’s gold medal with the Medal Race to spare after dominating the 20-boat fleet at Rio 2016 over the past week. The New Zealanders have gone undefeated in major competition in the 49er fleet since taking the silver medal at London 2012. They have won all four of the last World Championships and were expected to deliver gold for New Zealand this week. Even Burling and Tuke might be surprised at the ease with which they’ve managed their extraordinary feat, however.

Behind them the battle rages on for the other medals, with Erik Heil and Thomas Ploessel (GER) holding second place in front of the 2012 Olympic Champions Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen (AUS).

Thomas Barrows III and Joseph Morris (USA) had finishes of 6, 13, 17 today, the sixth place finish was their best race of the regatta. They do not make the cut for the medal race, as their overall is 19th place.

Results, 49er Men – Top 5 (12 races, 1 discard)
Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (NZL) 33 points
Erik Heil and Thomas Ploessel (GER) 67
Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen (AUS) 70
Dylan Fletcher-Scott and Alain Sign (GBR) 80
Jonas Warrer and Christian Peter Lubeck (DEN) 92

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