Dee Smith Earns 2.4mR US Paralympic Team Selection
Published on April 30th, 2016
(April 30, 2016) – Dee Smith (Annapolis, Md.) has won selection to the Rio 2016 U.S. Paralympic Sailing Team based on the results of the US Sailing Paralympic Athlete Selection Series in the 2.4mR one-person keelboat.
Smith (63) is a veteran of the America’s Cup, Volvo Ocean Race, Maxi competition and many other high-level racing programs over the course of his professional sailing career. Rio 2016 will be the first Paralympic Games appearance for Smith.
While competing with an America’s Cup challenger syndicate in 2007, Smith was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer, a condition that also impacted his spine. Smith was given less than a year to live by his doctors, but was able to beat the odds. Nevertheless, the six-time World Champion (in multiple classes) was left with significantly reduced mobility as a result of spinal damage. A subsequent bicycle accident also left him with a permanent injury to one of his legs.
“The last nine years have been pretty much a challenge for me,” said Smith. “I came out of that just wanting to go sailing.”
Classified as a Paralympic-class competitor by World Sailing in the spring of 2015, Smith has mounted a full-time campaign for Rio 2016 over the past 12 months. Although an accomplished racer, Smith has had a steep learning curve in the highly competitive 2.4mR class. Smith’s best results to date include a 6th at the 2015 Para Sailing World Championship, and a 7th at the 2015 2.4mR Open Worlds.
“It’s been an incredible ride,” said Smith. “The support of friends and my sailing family all around the world was incredible. When you go through these things and you’re just fighting, you never think of yourself as handicapped. You’re just trying to deal with things.”
Smith is confident that he will be able to close the gap to the top group of boats over the coming months, and submit a strong performance at Rio 2016.
“Now the boat’s tested. The big breeze here was fine, and it’s going faster all the time. Now that I’ve qualified [for Rio 2016], I can think about getting better.”
Note: All athletes nominated to the Rio 2016 U.S. Paralympic Team are subject to approval by the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC).
Source: Will Ricketson, Olympic Communications Manager, US Sailing.