Paralympic Games: Twenty Years Later
Published on September 1st, 2016
While Sailing was part of the Summer Olympic Games when it began in 1896, the history of Sailing with the Paralympic Games has a more recent history.
The Paralympic Games began in Rome in 1960, with Sailing first featured as a demonstration sport at the Atlanta 1996 Games. But after the success of the three-person Sonar event, Sailing would appear in the Paralympic Games Competition program as a full medal sport at Sydney 2000.
The Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games opened in a typically Australian blaze of colour. The atmosphere in the city was electric and the competition would be even more so. Sydney 2000 was also the debut of what is arguably the closest fought class in Paralympic sailing, the single-person 2.4mR keelboat.
A single-person event had been suggested for the previous games in Atlanta but had ultimately fallen through. However, four years later the tiny 2.4mR would make its inaugural Paralympic appearance alongside the Sonar on the waters of Rushcutters Bay.
Sailing the 2.4mR is often likened to sitting in a Formula One car and on the water, just like on the track, it was a German who dominated in 2000. Heiko Kroeger’s mastery of Sydney’s sea breezes delivered him wins in five of the seven races giving him a regatta score of just 10 points. In the ultra-competitive 17-boat fleet, Kroeger claimed his gold medal with one race to go, a brutal demonstration of skill and talent of the man who is currently the most successful Paralympic sailor ever.
Five points behind Kroeger, Jens Als Andersen (DEN) delivered a solid performance to take the silver while Thomas Brown (USA) snatched the bronze, just one point ahead of his rival, the world champion and pre-regatta favourite, Peter Thompson (AUS).
Dominance in the three-person Sonar was harder to come by for the 15 nations competing, but in the end it would come down to a battle between the top three boats for the podium: Germany, Australia and Canada.
It would be the Australian crew of Noel Robbins, Jamie Dunross and Graeme Marti that managed to put six points between them and their rivals to seize gold. Peter Reichl, Peter Muenter and Jens Kroker (GER) took silver and with it the title of top Paralympic sailing nation. David Williams, Paul Tingley and Brian MacDonald (CAN) completed the podium, adding bronze to the silver claimed by their countrymen four years earlier.
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