US Team Prospects for Tokyo 2020

Published on January 31st, 2017

The US Sailing Team is on a mission to be an Olympic powerhouse, but developing talented sailors takes time. The program took a step forward at the 2016 Games, but continued progress is dependent on nurturing young sailors and sustaining the commitment of current team members.

As we start the new Olympic cycle toward the Tokyo 2020 Games, here is the (very) early outlook for the US Team:

STRONGEST

Men’s 470 (Men’s Two-Person Dinghy):
Stu McNay and Dave Hughes are class veterans, and while a new team for the 2016 quad, were sufficiently accomplished and a medal favorite. They finished fourth but are ready to go again, which would be Stu’s fourth Games (and Dave’s second as an athlete). However, they will need to hold off 2016 I-420 Youth Sailing World Champions Wiley Rogers and Jack Parkin for the bid.

Finn (Men’s One-Person Heavyweight Dinghy):
Caleb Paine was the hero of the Rio Games, making the most of his first Olympics with a bronze medal. Caleb will take a break before continuing for Tokyo, but may find a new challenge from Luke Muller who finished 4th at World Cup Series Miami 2017.

OPTIMISM

Laser Radial (Women’s One-Person Dinghy):
Paige Railey has succeeded at every level of competition, from youth to adult, but has yet to medal at the Games. Rio was her second attempt, and after a break has said she will continue on to Tokyo. However, she will be challenged by 4-time college singlehanded champion Erika Reineke and possibly 2008 gold medalist Anna Tunnicliffe if she decides to make a comeback. There is good depth but not yet at international level.

Laser (Men’s One-Person Dinghy):

Charlie Buckingham had his first Olympics at Rio, and while not a medal contender, was projected above his 11th finish. He is all in for 2020, and while there is depth in the fleet, the pack has yet to rise consistently to the international level.

Nacra 17 (Mixed Two-Person Multihull):
Bora Gulari and Louisa Chafee were a new team at the Rio Games, finishing 8th but have gone their separate ways. Gulari will now sail with Helena Scutt and should continue to excel. Chafee also seeks to continue, teaming up with 20-year old Riley Gibbs at World Cup Series Miami 2017 to finish as top US team in 6th. Long-term plans unclear.

Women’s 470 (Women’s Two-Person Dinghy):
Annie Haeger and Briana Provancha had high hopes to medal at Rio, but a poor medal race in their first Games dropped them from 2nd to 7th. This team would be instant medal favorites for 2020 but looks unlikely to continue. The good news is the team they narrowly beat out for Rio may be returning, and the growth of the I-420 fleet in the US offers optimism.

WORK NEEDED

49er (Men’s Two-Person High Performance Skiff):
Thomas Barrows and Joe Morris were a new team at the Rio Games, finishing 19th, but it is not known whether they will continue. The good news is the team they narrowly beat out in the trials, Judge Ryan and Hans Henken, is all in but now need to establish themselves on the international level. There is also depth but overall improvement is needed.

49erFX (Women’s Two-Person High Performance Skiff):
Paris Henken and Helena Scutt were a new team at the Rio Games, overachieved by finishing 10th and looked to be on the launchpad for big things in Tokyo. But Paris pulled the handbrake and Helena has switched now to the Nacra 17. The US is thin in this event but it is possible that Paris will come back with a new teammate and pick up where she left off.

WEAKEST

Women’s RS:X (Women’s Board):
Marion Lepert competed at her first Games, posting four top-ten scores to finish in 16th. Her ceiling remains quite high but her plans are not known. No depth.

Men’s RS:X (Men’s Board):
Pedro Pascual competed in his first Games, finishing 28th, and is all in for 2020. There is some depth at the youth level but looking at 2024.

FINAL COMMENT: There were members of the 2016 Team that would not have been predicted at this stage, and there is additional work being done now at the development level that could push forth even more surprises for Tokyo 2020. A lot of the new blood was on display at World Cup Series Miami 2017. There is a long road ahead… stand by for updates.

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