Paige Railey Wins USA Selection for Rio 2016 Games
Published on March 4th, 2016
Portsmouth, RI (March 4, 2016) – After earning the best combined scores during US Sailing’s two-regatta selection series for the Laser Radial (women’s one-person dinghy), Paige Railey (Clearwater, Fla.) has been named to the U.S. Olympic Sailing Team. Rio 2016 will be the second career Olympic Games appearance for the World Champion, Rolex World Sailor of the Year, and US Sailing Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year.
“Growing up, I never dreamed I’d be a two-time Olympian,” said Railey shortly after returning to shore at the the Laser Radial European Championship in Las Palmas, Spain, which formed the second and final part of the U.S. selection series in this class. “I remember finding out that Rio de Janeiro would host the 2016 Olympics while I was in Weymouth, England, training for London 2012. It immediately became a goal and a dream of mine to get to the 2016 Games, because Rio is one of my favorite cities in the world.”
Railey said her love of the city was cemented during her Rio 2007 Pan American Games experience, where she won gold. Railey joins three teams already named to Rio Games Team: Thomas Barrows and Joe Morris (49er), Paris Henken and Helena Scutt (49erFX), and Bora Gulari and Louisa Chafee (Nacra 17).
The European Championship featured large waves, proved to be a tough, physical battle for all competitors in Las Palmas. Railey noted that any Olympic selection event presents a significant mental challenge as well. “This week was tactically hard, and it made [the selection process] difficult. I didn’t want to leave anything to chance. It’s always a learning experience to deal with that kind of stress.”
Railey also received a boost from her brother, two-time Olympians and Beijing 2008 silver medalist Zach Railey (Clearwater, Fla.). “Before this regatta, Zach told me to embrace the stress, and mentally take everything head on. That advice was in my head this week, and it definitely helped.” Whether the two siblings will go to the Olympics together, as they did in London, will be determined next week, during the final regatta in the U.S. Finn class selection series.
Erika Reineke (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) finished second in the Rio 2016 selection series, after mounting a highly competitive campaign over the past three years. A Laser Radial Youth World Champion, college sailing standout and the top American finisher at the last two World Championships, Reineke was widely seen a strong contender for the Olympic berth. Nevertheless, the two US Sailing Team Sperry (national team) teammates were each other’s primary training partners for much of the past three years, and Railey said that Reineke’s skills drove her to improve.
“We gave each other a hug today after we got in,” said Railey. “I know the pain she’s feeling. I’ve been there, after the Olympic Trials regatta I lost 2007. There are always tears of joy and sadness, and you never like to see your friend feel that way. On the water, the relationship is different than on land. I respect her a lot as a sailor, and a person.”
This milestone in Railey’s journey to Rio 2016 also represents another stage of a remarkable comeback story. Significant injuries sustained during a 2014 training accident nearly ended Railey’s competitive career, but after months of difficult physical rehabilitation, she has reverted to her world-class form. “Honestly after the accident, it’s been a full-on rush to get back into sailing shape,” said Railey, who won gold at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games, and took 4th at the 2015 Rio Olympic Test Event. “Selection events like this are really stressful for me. I started feeling it months ago. Earning a place on the team is a relief, but now that is in the past. I feel like a new chapter is beginning in my sailing career.”
For an athlete who has achieved almost everything possible in the Laser Radial except standing on the podium at an Olympic Games, the next mission is clear. “Obviously my goal is to medal,” said Railey. “We’re going to put all possible energy into winning in Rio de Janeiro. I truly feel like I can do it.”
Full U.S. Olympic Team Selection Tracker (all classes)… click here
Watch: Uncharted Waters – The Comeback Story of Paige Railey
Source: Will Ricketson, Olympic Communications Manager, US Sailing