In the shadow of the winningest nation

Published on August 8th, 2021

Once the winningest nation in Sailing, the USA has been a spectator as Great Britain climbed up the rank. Before the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Team GB already was the clear leader in gold medals, 28 to the USA’s 19, but the Brits now hold the most medals by total too – 64 to the USA’s 60.

The U.S. Sailing Team was not considered a medal threat in Tokyo, but the team arguably underperformed by posting its worst effort in history with an average finish of 14.2 place (14.1 in 2012, GBR averaged 4.8) and no medals. Making it worse, the sailing program exists within a country that does do well at the Olympics.

Overall, the U.S. Olympic Team finished atop the gold-medal standings at the Tokyo Olympics with 39, one better than China, and had the most total medals with 113 (41 silver and 33 bronze). Japan finished in third place with 27 gold medals, while Great Britain was fourth (22). The U.S.’s 113 total medals were 25 ahead of China, with the ROC in third at 71 and Great Britain in fourth with 65.

While the USA sailing program has proven successful at the youth level, the struggle has been bridging the distance to the Olympic stage. But there are new hands on the wheel as National Hall of Famer Paul Cayard takes on the challenge of turning around the sailing program.

“We have a strong pipeline of talent back home who have been boosted by our Olympic Development Program,” notes Cayard. “This includes our dinghy, skiff, board, and foiling communities. In the last four years, the USA has been the dominant player at the U19 level and those athletes, worldwide, are now coming up to their Olympic teams.”

But the pandemic has not helped, consuming a year the U.S. sailing program needed to further focus on athlete training toward Paris 2024. Short term hope comes from a revised competition program in which five of the 10 events in 2024 will be new. Perhaps that will help the sailing program contribute again to the medal tally of the U.S. Olympic team.

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