Tokyo 2020: Medal shakedown
Published on August 1st, 2021
Enoshima, Japan (August 1, 2021) – Great weather returned to Enoshima today, with sunshine and moderate winds for the sailors to really stretch their legs and put some physicality back into their racing after the light-wind stress of the past two days.
Although Matt Wearn had already secured the gold medal, the Men’s One Person Dinghy – Laser Medal Race was packed with drama as the pendulum of fortune swung one way and then another. Multiple sailors had a shot at the silver and bronze and it wasn’t until the very end that the medals were decided.
The same was true but even more so in the Women’s One Person Dinghy – Laser Radial Medal Race, never certain until the fleet had crossed the finish line.
Meanwhile the Finn and Nacra 17 completed their Opening Series and some sailors know they’re going to get medals. But no one has wrapped up gold before their Medal Races so it’s all to play for in these two events.
The 470 Men and Women have now completed all but the final two races of their Opening Series and some clear patterns are starting to emerge.
US Sailing Team athletes qualified for the Tokyo 2020 medal race in the Mixed Nacra 17 event and exited the regatta in the Men’s Heavyweight Finn class. Team USA also continued qualifying action in the Men’s and Women’s 470 events, where the fight for medal race berths will be the team’s primary focus tomorrow.
Men’s One Person Dinghy – Laser
Matt Wearn (AUS) won gold in the Men’s One Person Dinghy – Laser with Tonci Stipanovic (CRO) taking silver and Hermann Tomasgaard (NOR) bronze. Wearn had already wrapped up the gold medal before the Medal Race but was obliged to compete in order to complete the regatta.
It was a clean start off the line, and quite even too. Jean-Baptise Bernaz (FRA) took up the lead, making the most of a mathematical but unlikely chance of a medal. Hermann Tomasgaard (NOR) rounded the first mark in eighth, not far back from the ten-boat fleet, but over the next lap the Norwegian sailed through to fifth, making his intentions clear for the silver medal.
However, Stipanovic fought back hard on the final lap, overtaking Tomasgaard and moving into silver medal position. At the finish, Bernaz won the race, Wearn was second, but more importantly Stipanovic’s fourth place got him the silver medal to go with the one he secured at Rio 2016. Tomasgaard (NOR) was still happy to get the bronze.
Matt Wearn’s gold medal makes it three golds in a row for Australia in the Laser, following on from Tom Slingsby at London 2012 and Tom Burton at Rio 2016. “It’s a special thing to be able to continue that Australian legacy in the Laser,” said Wearn.
“After my first day when things hadn’t gone so well, I really had to dig deep, to work on my mental strength to get me back up there again. It’s amazing to have this moment and thank you to the people of Japan for making this happen.”
Following a glittering Olympic career that spans quarter of a century, today’s Medal Race was the last time we’ll see Robert Scheidt competing at the Olympic Games. His story began at Atlanta 1996 when the Brazilian won gold in the Laser. Now aged 48, with five Olympic medals from seven Games, Scheidt bows out as one of the greatest of all time.
Women’s One Person Dinghy – Laser Radial
Anne-Marie Rindom (DEN) won gold in the Women’s One Person Dinghy – Laser Radial with Josefin Olsson (SWE) taking silver and Marit Bouwmeester (NED) bronze.
At the start the individual recall flag went up. Two boats were over and Marit Bouwmeester (NED) was one of them. The Dutch sailor returned to start correctly, immediately putting her to the back of the 10-boat fleet and playing catch-up for the medals. However, Silvia Zennaro (ITA) was also over at start time and didn’t return. She was later pulled out of the race further up the first leg.
At the top of the first upwind leg, Tuula Tenkanen (FIN) briefly moved into the medal zone but on the first downwind leg, Emma Plasschaert (BEL) surfed from fourth into the lead, moving her into silver position.
However, Bouwmeester’s recovery was even more impressive, moving in on the pack on the downwind and opting for the right-hand gate when most of the fleet had gone left. From being left for dead at the start, the comeback queen was back into silver medal position.
Next it was the turn of Josefin Olsson (SWE) to have her say, having climbed from seventh in the early stages to third at the end of the first lap and up to the lead by the final windward mark. Now the Swede was in medal contention, threatening the Netherlands for silver.
Olsson crossed the finish line a fraction in front of Plasschaert. Behind her Bouwmeester had dropped a critical place and slipped back to bronze, leaving Sweden to take silver by the slimmest of margins, just three points behind Rindom who somehow clung on to gold.
Rindom and Bouwmeester are now multiple medallists. In Rio 2016 Bouwmeester won gold and Rindom bronze. Today they won the same medals the other way round. This is now Bouwmeester’s third Olympic medal, having also won silver at London 2012.
Bouwmeester commented, “The way I race, I race for only one medal. For me, there is only one medal, and I didn’t win it. I’ve let down my team, I’ve let down my brother [Roelof, her coach].” She said she would be back for the only medal that matters to her in three years’ time, at Paris 2024. Asked how it felt to be Olympic champion, Rindom grinned, “Well, so far, it’s pretty great!”
It didn’t feel so great during the Medal Race though. “After the start, it was going kind of easy, but then it kind of crumbled beneath me. I just lost everything on downwind leg. And then my self-bailer didn’t work because there was so much seaweed stuck in it and we had never sailed in so much seaweed out there as I saw today.
“The boat was filling up with water. So many things went wrong but I just kept fighting. I told myself to just keep breathing, take a deep breath and keep working hard until the end.”
Canadian sailor Sarah Douglas finished sixth in her Olympic debut, entering today’s final fourth in the points standings, but finished ninth to drop her out of medal contention. Douglas was looking to become the first Canadian woman ever to win an Olympic sailing medal but will settle for claiming the best women’s individual performance in the sport in the country’s history.
“I went in with an opportunity to win a medal. Unfortunately I couldn’t do that but still with the performance I’ve had this past week and with what I’ve accomplished so far, I’m really proud. And to make history for Canada, it really has a special place in my heart,” Douglas said after the race. “It just gives me a lot of fire for the next Olympics.”
The five years of waiting in between Rio and Tokyo weren’t always easy for Douglas, who battled an injury that kept her off the water for three months just before the pandemic hit. Fighting through tears, she credited her team at home for her success. “The support I’ve had is incredible. I’m going to get emotional, I don’t like crying. I’m just really thankful for the support that I’ve had. It’s really really special,” she said.
Mixed Multihull – Nacra 17
Ruggero Tita and Caterina Banti (ITA) sailed impeccably in today’s medium winds, putting down scores of 1,2,1 which has now guaranteed a minimum of silver for the Italians. Only the British in second can take gold from Italy.
John Gimson and Anna Burnet (GBR) sailed a steady day with 5,2,4 scores which put them 12 points back from Italy and 12 points ahead of Paul Kohlhoff and Alica Stuhlemmer (GER). Great Britain is guaranteed a medal, being far enough ahead on points compared with Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin (AUS) in fourth place.
The Aussies are seven points behind Germany and will be looking to challenge for a bronze in the Medal Race two days from now. Tita was pleased with how he and Banti had executed the day. “We did the right things, everything felt easy, but you never expect anything in these boats. We have been training hard for five years and we are pleased to have reached this point.”
American mixed Nacra 17 foiling multihull team, Riley Gibbs (Long Beach, Calif.) and Anna Weis (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), entered their final day of full-fleet action in a close battle for medal race qualification. The first-time Olympians rose to the occasion and delivered scores of 13, 4, 5, punching their ticket into the final round. Gibbs and Weis are mathematically eliminated from medal contention, but getting into the medal race is a significant milestone for the team.
They are currently in 9th overall, and could advance as high as 7th during tomoorow’s double-points contest. “Making the medal race here is really cool because we’ve made one other medal race at a big event, the Pan American Games,” said Weis, who won gold at the Lima 2019 Pan American Games with Gibbs.
“The whole fleet wasn’t there [in Lima], so with the entire international fleet in attendance here, it’s a big stepping stone for our team and it’s nice that we can advance.” Gibbs added that a strength today was the early stages of each race. “Fortunately, we’ve been starting quite well, so that gave us options from beginning,” said Gibbs.
“This fleet is really, really good. You get punished for any little mistake, or for not sailing or executing something well. We made a couple of mistakes and had to do some turns today. But we were happy to get back into it and capitalize on the second and third races. [Those scores] show that we are capable of battling it out at the top of the fleet. It was a really nice way to end the day.”
Men’s Heavyweight One Person Dinghy – Finn
Giles Scott won the opening race of the afternoon followed by a seventh, keeping the British sailor top of the Finn leaderboard. Zsombor Berecz (HUN) scored two fourths which were sufficient to move the Hungarian into second overall, just two points ahead of Joan Cardona (ESP) who slipped a place today.
Scott has a nine-point lead on Berecz who might be more concerned about defending the silver when it comes to the Medal Race. Josh Junior (NZL) won the final qualifying race which puts him fourth, eight points out of the medals so still in with a shot of getting on the podium.
Scott commented, “Another tough day out there and nice to be through the ten-race series. You know, these Olympics are so intense for us and for me personally. To be able to put together a series like I have done is a pretty special moment. But that being said, I’ve got a lot of work to do in two days’ time to come away with the color of medal that I want.”
American Finn sailor Luke Muller (Ft. Pierce, Fla.) spent much of the week in the top-10 overall, and demonstrated daily that he had the speed, fitness and racing acumen to be fully competitive in the men’s heavyweight event. Muller, who finished 6th overall at the 2021 Finn Gold Cup (world championship) rounded top-5 at various stages of most of the races this week.
Nevertheless, scores of 12, 17 during the final two races of the qualifying series off Enoshima resulted in a 13th overall position in the Finn fleet, and the end of his event. “I gave this event my all, I put my heart into it, and it’s unfortunate that I didn’t have great finishes, but I was definitely in the fight at the top for a lot of those races,” said Muller. “The margins for error were super small and little mistakes had big consequences.
“I think everyone participating was at their best and giving their all. It’s very humbling to be a part of such an amazing fleet of exceptional humans. I’m really proud of the work I’ve done and that my team has done and all the people around me. I didn’t achieve my goals, but it wasn’t a failure by any means.”
A huge comeback by Tom Ramshaw (CAN) earned him a spot in the Medal Race. Placed 12th overall before the last day of the preliminary races, Ramshaw started out by finishing 13th in the ninth race of the competition. Entering in 13th spot and 10 points away from the 10th position, which he needed to get to in order to take part in the Medal Race, he finished in 2nd place to qualify with 80 points. He is currently eight points away from the 9th position.
“Today was another decent day. I had to make up some points to have a chance to get into the Medal Race,” said Tom Ramshaw. “I took a little more risk, having nothing to lose, really. It didn’t pay off in the first race, but then, it did pay off in the second race and I got second place. It was just enough points to squeeze into the top 10 and I’m really happy about that.
“And now, I’m just gonna give it my best in the Medal Race and hopefully I can move up in the standings a little bit more.” Tom Ramshaw’s top 10 finish will also be the best Canadian performance at the Olympic Games in the Finn event since Chris Cook finished 5th overall in Beijing in 2008.
Men’s Two Person Dinghy – 470
Professional athletes that they are, Mat Belcher and Will Ryan (AUS) would say that it’s far too early to be talking about gold medals. Even with two qualifying races and a Medal Race to go, though, a 19-point advantage over second place is a pretty handy lead.
Scores of 2,1 now put them well ahead of the chasing pack, now led by Jordi Xammar and Nico Rodriguez (ESP) who made a slow start to the regatta. Finishes of 3,2 now put Spain in second, four points in front of Sweden and Great Britain who are tied for third.
In the modern era of highly physical 470 racing, Belcher says that even when he and Ryan win a race, there isn’t enough energy left for any kind of celebration. “Not so much a feeling of celebration, more of being relieved,” he commented. “It was a really physical race, in really high temperature, a lot of high cardio work to get the boat down the waves. When you cross the finishing line, you’re just completely overheated and just happy if you can get across the line with a good result.”
The American Men’s 470 team, Stu McNay (Providence, R.I.) and Dave Hughes (Miami, Fla.) recorded a solid 7,9 today, which was also McNay’s 40th birthday. McNay and Hughes, who finished 4th at Rio 2016, have sailed with consistency all week and have only recorded two scores of 10 points or greater. Nevertheless, in a mercilessly deep fleet, McNay and Hughes stand in 11th overall and 22 points from 3rd.
“Today it was complicated sailing, and at any moment where there seemed to be a roadmap, things would change,” said McNay, a four-time Olympian. “It was a challenge to get one’s bearings, but it was within our grasp to do so. It’s a bit frustrating to not have walked away with finishes equal to our best positions in each race. There are multiple races left and we will fight with everything we have.”
“The knife fight at the front of our fleet, in the mid-field, and even in the back is just awesome racing,” said Hughes, who has reached the podium at major events with McNay over two dozen times since they teamed up in 2012. “Today Stu and I noted how this is such a rewarding and fun style of racing. But on the flip side, it is a game of inches.
“And there are times where you get rewarded for fantastic decisions and there are times where you get destroyed for fantastic decisions. It’s hard in the moment to calibrate which decisions are really getting you up the course when everyone is so close and battling at such a high level.”
Women’s Two Person Dinghy – 470
Results of 1,3 have moved Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre (GBR) into the overall lead of the 470 Women, although only a point in front of Agnieszka Skrzypulec and Jolanta Ogar (POL) who have worn the yellow bibs since day one.
Nine points further back is France’s Camille Lecointre and Aloise Retornaz (FRA). Best of the rest are the Swiss team of Linda Fahrni and Maja Siegenthaler (SUI), although they’re currently 17 points away from the podium with just two qualifying races to make up the gap.
McIntyre is enjoying the intensity of the battle with the Polish team, “It’s amazing racing. We had a fantastic day, but so did they, so we have to keep on battling away to fight for every point.”
For Team USA’s Women’s 470, it was a tale of two races on day eight. Nikole Barnes (St. Thomas, USVI) and Lara Dallman-Weiss (Shoreview, Minn.) rolled a 19 in the first race before bouncing back with a 2nd. This was their best finish of the event to date, and the first-time Olympians now sit in 9th overall. “It’s all really hot and light [in terms of weather conditions], and it’s very much about the first beat,” said Dallman-Weiss.
“In our first race today, we didn’t happen to have the best first beat and we weren’t able to come back after that. In the second race we had an “O flag” (a signal from the race commute to indicate that pumping the sails is allowed during racing] up the whole race. And I had a fire lit in me after the first race. In the second race, we worked really well together and it was a constant negotiation between working on height, speed, and being physical.”
On Monday, August 2, the Men’s and Women’s Skiff – 49er and 49erFX will return to the water for their deciding Medal Races. The Men’s and Women’s 470 will conclude their Opening Series. Meanwhile the Finn and Nacra 17 sailors will enjoy a day of rest before their Medal Races.
Race schedule is staggered for the ten sailing events from July 25 to August 4.
Tokyo 2020 Olympic Sailing Program
Men’s One Person Dinghy – ILCA 7
Women’s One Person Dinghy – ILCA 6
Men’s Two Person Dinghy – 470
Women’s Two Person Dinghy – 470
Men’s Skiff – 49er
Women’s Skiff – 49erFx
Men’s One Person Dinghy Heavy – Finn
Men’s Windsurfing – RS:X
Women’s Windsurfing – RS:X
Mixed Multihull – Nacra 17
Original dates: July 24 to August 9, 2020
Revised dates: July 23 to August 8, 2021
Source: World Sailing, US Sailing