It was a light and frustrating day for many in the Olympic sailing competition, but not for the London 2012 gold and silver medallists in the Men’s Windsurfer, with the Dutch and the British wrapping up Rio 2016 gold and silver before the Medal Race on Sunday.
Men’s Windsurfer – RS:X
Dorian van Rijsselberghe (NED) has won the gold medal in the Men’s Windsurfer and Nick Dempsey (GBR) has won the silver, both without having to contest the Medal Race on Sunday. It’s a carbon copy repeat of London 2012 when the Dutchman took gold ahead of the Briton four years ago. The result is subject to protest, and both sailors will still have to sail the Medal Race, but van Rijsselberghe and Dempsey were already congratulating each other after crossing the finish line of the 12th race of their series. These two athletes have dominated the Olympic competition, with van Rijsselberghe winning seven of the 12 races and Dempsey winning three. Sunday’s battle for bronze will still be close fought between current World ChamMedal pion Piotr Myszka (POL), Pierre Le Coq (FRA) and Byron Kokkalanis (GRE).
Looking back to the start of the RS:X competition, van Rijsselberghe commented, “I was very fortunate that Nick went off like a cannon in the first couple of races because it really showed me like, ‘okay, it’s not going to be easy.’ We never thought it was going to be easy but he really showed me that if I wanted this, I had to work for it. I tried, worked for it and I got it. It’s great when you’re sailing against guys that are really pushing you and challenging you. If you don’t have that, it would be very boring.”
Even though the Dutchman dominated four years ago to win his first Olympic title, he was still taken aback at his performance this time. “It’s unreal. I did it in London and I never expected it to happen again. Now that it’s happened again, it’s unreal. It’s never easy, if it was easy everybody would be doing it. It was an amazing week and having the guys push me really helped a lot. Coming out with a score like this is pretty special.”
Van Rijsselberghe paid tribute to the people that helped him to his second Olympic title saying, “The majority of it will be from Aaron, my coach. He keeps pushing me and of course my training partner Kiran Badloe and the others that have helped me bust my balls and blaze along.” He also thanked his wife for allowing him to shave his head specially for the Games, just as he had done when he won four years ago in London.
Dempsey almost had a tear in his eye as he sealed his third Olympic windsurfing medal, the first sailor ever to have done so. “I was consistent but not quite consistently good enough today. I just had to really try and stay in touch with Dorian and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I had an eye on the two people behind me. Dorian was too good today. He won it today rather than me losing it and I feel very happy to have won a silver medal.”
The Briton has won three medals from five Games, so he knows what it’s like to miss out and he wasn’t taking his silver for granted. It has been a life of sacrifice dating back to his first Games in Sydney 2000. This evening he was enjoying his first beer in five months. “A year ago, I didn’t know where I’d finish. At the Olympic Test event last year I wasn’t anywhere near the podium so I had a lot of work to do. The last 12 months have gone really well and I’ve worked bloody hard, so it’s nice to come here and have a chance of winning. To have the silver medal is pretty awesome.”
On his strategy, Dempsey was happy to have taken a conservative approach. “I didn’t want to be too aggressive. I wanted to stay pretty safe as it was pretty unstable out there. The last thing I wanted to do was have a day like the Polish guy. He had some horrendous scores, and then all of a sudden you’re out of the medals and fighting to get back. I had to be quite careful. I was pretty close to Dorian but he was slightly ahead of me. Unfortunately, he was ahead all of the time but when somebody is out winning there is not a lot you can do apart from limit the damage. He was too good today. It’s been an amazing week with great racing.”
Dempsey will celebrate his 36th birthday tomorrow with a rest day before Sunday’s Medal Race, and he wants to go out on a high. “Sunday is my last race ever so I want to do well and win.”
Women’s Windsurfer – RS:X
Star performer of the day was Peina Chen (CHN) who won the last three races of the qualifying series. Just five points separate the top six sailors going into Sunday’s Women’s Windsurfer Medal Race this Sunday. Bearing in mind the final race is worth double points, Stefania Elfutina’s (RUS) one-point lead over Flavia Tartaglini (ITA) effectively puts them tied for first. Breathing down their necks are reigning Olympic Champion Marina Alabau (ESP), Peina Chen (CHN), Charline Picon (FRA) and Maayan Davidovich (ISR). A few points further back but still with an outside shot at the podium is Lillian de Geus (NED).
Alabau is going to have fight hard to keep her Olympic title, but she’s relishing the challenge. “It hasn’t been a bad day for me but I really think that I could have done it a bit better. It has been a difficult day, with difficult conditions, very changing winds in direction and intensity. Some girls have done it quite bad, not me, but I haven’t shone either. Now I have a protest with the Israeli and let’s see how it finishes.” As to the grand finale on Sunday, “It’s going to be the most interesting Medal Race in history. We are seven women to win three medals. Crazy.”
Tartaglini led earlier in the week and was a little envious at the ease with which the gold and silver medals have been won in the Men’s Windsurfer. “I would have liked to do it as Dorian or Nick, but we are going to keep the suspense until the end. Women are so pig-headed, so we have to suffer till the end. It’s a nonsense to work out the points. I have to do my own race, and I hope to win a medal.”
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