Paralympic Games: Defending the Crown
Published on August 28th, 2016
The singlehanded 2.4 Norlin OD fleet has many gold medallists competing at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, but only one can call themselves the current Paralympic champion, Great Britain’s Helena Lucas.
Lucas emerged from a strong feel of previous winners at London 2012 to claim the gold medal, and she will have to do the same if she is to defend her title on the waters of Guanabara Bay with multiple world champions, Sailing World Cup winners and Paralympic gold medallists competing.
“There are fantastic sailors out there,” Lucas said. “Some have been sailors in other classes and then had their accident and sailed the 2.4 so it’s a highly competitive fleet, and of course I’m racing against men. That adds another dimension to it.”
Lucas, who was born with no thumbs and limited extension in her arms, is in the unusual position of having done both Olympic and Paralympic campaigns.
Lucas first campaigned in the Women’s 470, and while being one of the stronger teams in the class, Lucas never made the Olympic Games, missing out in the British trails on two occasions. She then made the decision to change her approach, “I was looking for a new challenge and something different and the 2.4 definitely offered me that.”
Although it was a new challenge, Lucas thought she was more than up for it, but she was mistaken, “I had a bit of a wake-up call when I stepped in to the 2.4. Coming from the 470 and being in the top 10 at that level, I admit I was slightly arrogant and thought I was going to walk in to the class and clean up.”
Lucas’ wake-up call was a fifth placed finish in her first regatta.
Much more comfortable on the 2.4mR scene, Lucas now is very settled near the top of the fleet and is at the stage where the marginal gains are considered more than the drastic overhauls, “All the top guys, we have been working really hard on getting that speed edge. It definitely is something that you can do and work on. It’s down to technique and how you steer the boat and not just the set up and the equipment. Tiny tweaks can make a big difference.”
There are many ‘top guys’ in the 2.4 Norlin OD field so a lot of competition for medals, but that is for the sailors to worry about, for the people watching it makes for great viewing, as Lucas explains, “The racing is really close and that’s what makes it so exciting and fun.”
Lucas will start her defence of gold at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games on the Pão de Açucar race area of Guanabara Bay.
The Rio 2016 Paralympic Games will take place on September 7-18 with the sailing scheduled to be raced on September 12-17 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Competition will be held in three events: 2.4 Norlin OD (singlehanded), SKUD18 (doublehanded), and Sonar (triplehanded).
Source: World Sailing