Saturday, August 16, 2008

Medal Races Postponed But Gold Beckons For Australia

[Source: ISAF] Ben AINSLIE (GBR) looked to be well on his way to a third consecutive Olympic gold medal in Qingdao today until the Finn Medal Race was abandoned halfway through as the wind died on course area A. Although the fleet waited on the water throughout the afternoon, the conditions failed to improve and the Finns finally returned to the marina shortly before 16:00. The Finn and Yngling Medal Races will now be rescheduled for tomorrow, along with the 49er Medal Race.

The Yngling Medal Race is scheduled for 13:00 local time, the Finn for 14:00 and the 49er for 15:00.

With the Medal Races postponed, the first gold medallists of the 2008 Olympic Sailing Competition will not now be known until tomorrow. With British sailors leading both Finn and Yngling fleets it was all set to be a bumper day for Team GBR, but instead it will be the Australians and their ‘medal-maker’ 470 coach Victor KOVALENKO who will be celebrating this evening.

Australian 470 duo Nathan WILMOT and Malcolm PAGE just have to make a genuine attempt to start, compete in and finish Monday's Medal Race to win gold in the Men's Two Person Dinghy event. The Aussie pair, who came to Qingdao with "unfinished business" after a disappointing results in Athens (read the full story here), take an unassailable 22-point lead into the Medal Race after their closest rivals wilted in today’s three races.

All Nathan Wilmot and Malcom Page have to do in order to win the gold medal is start the race, sail and cross the finish line. Qingdao, 16 August 2008. Photo copyright Juerg Kaufmann

The Australian women's team of Elise RECHICHI and Tessa PARKINSON, aged just 22 and 21 years respectively, are also within touching distance of Olympic gold. They maintained their consistent scorecard with third and second place finishes in today’s two Women’s 470 races. Crucially their closest rivals all struggled in the very light and shifty conditions of race 10 giving the Aussies an 18-point buffer going into the Women’s 470 Medal Race on Monday. As long as they finish ninth or better amongst the ten boats competing the Medal Race, they will secure the Olympic gold medal in the Women's Two Person Dinghy event.

Today’s results are subject to any Protests, you can stay updated at our Protests & Communications section here.

Australia also had a good day in the Tornado, with reigning World Champions and world #1 crew Darren BUNDOCK and Glenn ASHBY climbing up three places to second overall. Fernando ECHAVARRI and Anton PAZ BLANCO of Spain maintain the overall lead with a sixth place and a bullet in today’s races.

However, it wasn’t a success story across the board in the Australian camp today. Nathan OUTTERIDGE and Ben AUSTIN have dropped from first to third overall in the 49er after their worst day of the Opening Series to date. The Danish team of Jonas WARRER and Martin Kirketerp IBSEN will take an 11-point lead into tomorrow’s Medal Race after a fantastic finish to today’s final race in which they hauled themselves from 15th to eighth overall. The Australians are protesting the Race Committee on race 10 under Rule 62.1(a), you can see more details and view the decision of the International Jury when it is posted in our Protests & Communications section here.

Ben Ainslie and Zach Railey kill their time carrying out match races. Qingdao, 16 August 2008. Photo copyright Juerg Kaufmann

John DANE, at 58 years the oldest sailor competing at this year’s Games, and his crew and son-in-law Austin SPERRY hold the overall in the Star fleet on 14 points. Once again many of the big names of the class posted high scores and it looks set to be a high-scoring series.

The Laser and Laser Radial fleets both managed one race in light winds on course area C. This was enough to bring them up to five races in their Opening Series and allow each sailor to exclude one race score from their overall points total. Following a tenth place finish in today’s race, Diego ROMERO of Italy is back at the top of the Laser fleet, although just six points cover the top six skippers. In the Laser Radials, New Zealander Jo ALEH now holds the overall lead, three points ahead of Gintare VOLUNGEVICIUTE of Lithuania, who won today’s race. China’s Lijia XU has also hauled herself back into contention with a fifth place finish today pulling her up to fourth overall, just behind world #1 Anna TUNNICLIFFE (USA).

With the wind getting lighter through the day, the RS:X fleet returned to shore without completing a race.



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