Barrows and Morris Earn 49er US Olympic Team Selection
Published on February 14th, 2016
(February 14, 2016) – The 49er World Championship drew to a close on Sunday, and with it came the end of the Rio 2016 U.S. Olympic Sailing Team Athlete Selection Series in the Men’s 49er class.
Based on their combined scores from January’s Sailing World Cup Miami, Florida, and the Worlds in Clearwater, Florida, Beijing 2008 Olympian Thomas Barrows (St. Thomas, U.S.V.I.) and teammate Joe Morris (Annapolis, Md.) have earned selection to Team USA.
Barrows and Morris were locked in a tight battle until the final race with Judge Ryan (San Diego, Calif.) and Hans Henken (Coronado, Calif.), and had to execute a careful plan to defend their lead.
“Our strategy was to stay in contact with Judge and Hans [during today’s races],” said Barrows, the helmsman and the 2005 U.S. Sailing Youth Champion in the Laser. “To ensure that they didn’t put too many points in between us, we planned on starting in the same area, and going to the same side of the [race] course with them. It put us in some compromised spots, and made the racing really stressful, but the strategy worked out in the end.”
The pair have been together longer than any other active U.S. 49er team, and have diligently worked their way up through the ranks over the past three years by training heavily in all weather conditions. That paid of this week, as the 49er fleet was challenged by strong winds and unstable waves.
“We spent a lot of time [in Clearwater] in December, and we saw a lot of big breeze, which was never a strength for us,” said Barrows. “In the first race of gold fleet [we saw those conditions], and we came away with a top-ten finish. That really made the difference for us at this event, and was a big confidence booster.”
Coaching Barrows and Morris for much of the past year has been three-time college sailing All-American and national champion Evan Aras (Annapolis, Md.).
For Morris, Rio 2016 will be his first Olympic Games, and the realization of a lifelong dream. “Sixteen years,” said Morris when asked how long he’d been working towards this moment. “Since I was ten years old, and first figured out that sailing was in the Olympics.”
A principle strength of Team Barrows/Morris is a strong preexisting friendship, which has carried them through the moments of doubt and adversity that characterize many Olympic campaigns.
“Thomas and I were good friends in college, and sailed against each other all throughout high school as well,” said Morris, a four-time All-American and five-time national champion in various classes. “We had a great opportunity to team up for this Olympic campaign. We started out at a pretty low level, and came a long way over the past couple of years. He’s the best teammate in the world, and there’s nothing else I could ask for.”
For Barrows, this will be a second shot at the Olympic podium, having represented the U.S. Virgin Islands in the Laser class in 2008, before starting to sail under the U.S. flag in the 49er. Barrows noted that he’s excited for another chance to race at this level.
“I feel as though we’re in a really good position to get a good result [at the Games],” said Barrows. “The time I went before, it was mostly for the experience. I was still in college, and wasn’t truly focused on it. It’ll be nice to go and put the hammer down!”
Report by Will Ricketson, Olympic Communications Manager, US Sailing.