There was double medal delight on Guanabara Bay as Giles Scott wrapped up Finn gold and Nick Dempsey claimed his RS:X Men’s silver yesterday.
With an eighth and second from the Finn’s two races yesterday, Scott ensured that nobody can catch him going into Tuesday’s double points medal race, meanwhile Dempsey sailed to the silver medal he effectively sealed during Friday’s racing.
Scott’s victory means that Britain has now won the Finn men’s heavyweight dinghy class at the last five Olympics – Iain Percy (Sydney 2000), Ben Ainslie (Athens 2004, Beijing 2008, London 2012) and Scott (Rio 2016).
And it clearly meant everything to the 29-year-old four-time World Champion. Many believe Scott would have won gold four years earlier at London 2012, but he had to bide his time as Ben Ainslie earned selection ahead of him and went on to win his fourth Olympic gold in a tense medal race where the outcome of the medals was in doubt until the very last second.
No such doubt for Scott, who has avoided having to earn his gold medal on the vagaries of the fluky medal race course under the shadow of Sugarloaf Mountain. Even the usually invincible Briton looked mortal as he opened his Olympic campaign with a 17th place on the Sugarloaf course earlier in the week. Since then however, Scott has scored seven of the 10 qualifying races inside the top three, and three of those were race wins.
He said: ‘I know what it means to me because I know how it made me feel towards the last stages of that final race. I found myself welling up, in tingles as it slowly dawned on me what I had done and I wouldn’t put myself down as the emotional sort but I had a little cry to myself, which I like to think I don’t do that often.
‘The emotions that end come out of you in that situation you can’t really prepare yourself for, it was amazing. If you had asked me if I would win the Olympic Games with a race to spare I would have said absolutely not because of Rio as a venue.’
Dempsey, meanwhile, was equally effusive after becoming the most decorated male windsurfer in Olympic history, after today’s fourth in the RS:X Men’s Medal Race confirmed his place on the podium. The gold medal has been won by Dorian Van Rijsselberghe (NED), who successfully defended the title he won at London 2012.
He said: ‘Being the most decorated male Olympic windsurfer is awesome, something I’m incredibly proud of. I have been working for a long time, and it’s very hard to stay at the top for that long. I’m not sure I can do it again. I would love to if I could.
‘I love the Olympics, I think it is the best thing in the world everything that it stands for, I think, is pretty special.’
Looking back to the start of the RS:X competition, van Rijsselberghe said: ‘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.’
Watching van Rijsselberghe was not boring, and even his competitors acknowledge that it is a privilege to compete against such a talent.
João Rodrigues (POR), competing at his seventh and final Olympics, said: ‘Dorian is like an artist, he has taken things to a new level, the way he sails the RS:X. And he does it with a smile on his face. Dorian is very popular in the fleet. He really loves what he does and he loves to share that with other people.’
Elsewhere on the water in Rio yesterday, Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie (NZL) won race six of the Women’s 470 only to discover they had been UFD disqualified for crossing the start line too soon. Having already picked up a disqualification from race one, the reigning Olympic Champions now have a mountain to climb if they’re to win a repeat gold.
Britain’s Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark maintained their medal charge with eighth and first place finishes giving them a four-point advantage over Annie Haeger and Briana Provancha (USA) at the top of the pile, with the final three races of their scheduled 10-race opening series set to be contested today.
Clark said: ‘Three races so that’s another 60 points it is possible to get on the scoreboard. The chasing pack aren’t that far behind and everyone really wants this badly so we have to just keep to what we know, keep doing our processes and go from there.’
Bryony Shaw admitted she felt “unfulfilled” after finishing her Rio 2016 in ninth overall after finishing sixth in the RS:X Women’s medal race and she was left reflecting on what might have been in Rio. Charline Picon (FRA) won gold a tense and exciting race, while silver went to China and Russia took bronze.
Bryony said: ‘I had a good cycle in the build up to 2012 and didn’t have a great Games and the same has happened here. It’s potentially a worse scenario here as I was in good health and good form, so this time it’s come down more to mistakes and misfortune. Hopefully I’ll come back stronger for the next one.’
There was disappointment too for Luke Patience and Chris Grube, who suffered a setback to their medal hopes after a starting disqualification in race one of the day, followed by a 20th place, saw them drop to 10th overall. Not that Patience is about to give up the fight…
‘I’m forever optimistic’, he said. ‘What happened to us today can happen to our competitors tomorrow. We come back tomorrow, turn the burners on and hopefully make it good and something that were proud of. It’s frustrating but all is not lost.’
Nacra 17 duo Ben Saxton and Nicola Groves were also left insisting, ‘It’s not over until it’s over’ after two 15th place finishes and a 12th today left them with only an outside shot of a medal in Tuesday’s double points medal race.
They sit in eighth place overall, with 19 points separating them and Thomas Zajac and Tanja Frank (AUT), who currently sit in bronze medal position. The oldest sailor in the Olympic sailing competition 57-year-old Santiago Lange is currently top of the multihull leaderboard.
Today’s medal races
Today sees Nick Thompson bid to claim Britain’s third sailing medal of the Rio Games as he goes in the Laser Medal Race from 6pm BST while Alison Young also contests the Laser Radial medal race at 5pm but is not in a position to secure a podium finish. Both races will take place on the Pão de Açucar (Sugarloaf) course.
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