Working to bring USA back to Olympic Podium

Published on August 23rd, 2015

When US Sailing Team Sperry Women’s 470 athletes Annie Haeger (East Troy, Wisc.) and Briana Provancha (San Diego, Calif.) claimed gold at the Aquece Rio International Sailing Regatta (the second and final Olympic Test Event), it was a huge relief for a country that experienced a painful medal drought at the 2012 Olympic Games. While the Olympic Test Event is not the Games, right now the USA needed this win.

“We made a strong commitment as a team to training in Rio in preparation for the Olympics and Paralympics,” said Josh Adams, Managing Director of US Olympic Sailing. “Our team’s performance at this year’s Test Event showed that we can contend in Rio. We still have a lot of hard work ahead of us and believe that as a team we can build on this positive experience.”

For a country that nearly medaled in three of the ten events in Rio, their one medal put the USA among the 19 countries that stood on the podium at the Olympic Test Event. Here were the winners:

France – 5 medals
Australia -3 medals
Netherlands – 3 medals
Great Britain – 2 medals
Italy – 2 medals
New Zealand – 2 medals
Thirteen countries – 1 medal each

So the USA celebrates their victory, which by all accounts is seen as measurable progress. A year ago at the first Olympic Test Event, Haeger and Provancha entered the medal race in a three-way tie for the lead, and finished outside of the top three in frustrating fashion. This time, however, the Americans would not be denied.

“It doesn’t feel real,” said Haeger, the 2011 Women’s College Sailor of the Year. “We’ve been battling this whole regatta, and had a great final series. The last race yesterday we struggled a bit, so to pull through in this medal race, and to be wearing these [medals], is so cool.”

When asked what made the difference this year, Haeger said it was another twelve months spent with their coach, 470 legend Dave Ullman (Newport Beach, Calif.). “We’ve got Dave Ullman on our side. That’s a big plus on our end,” said Haeger. “We’ve gotten our medal race swagger on, and I’m really excited. Everything seems to be clicking together.”

Provancha said she’s pleased with the momentum that their campaign continues to build. “This was huge for us, especially leading up to our Worlds next month in Haifa [Israel],” said Provancha. “In terms of sailing in Rio, we’ve been training here a lot, and working really hard. If I learned anything this week down here, it’s to be ready for anything. You have to be able to adapt.”

Haeger also identified a strong team culture as a contributing factor in their success this week. “You could see it as we came in off the beach,” said Haeger. “There were American flags flying, tons of people there, and it was such a cool atmosphere. We share info [about sailing conditions in Rio] and every little bit helps. We have so much talent on this team, in every class, and the combination of [US Sailing Team Sperry] coaches and sailors has been really great.”

Racing at the 2015 Aquece Rio International Sailing Regatta (Olympic Test Event) took place from August 15-22, with medal race occurring over the final three days of competition.

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