There was plenty of drama yesterday across Guanabara Bay besides the four medal races at Rio 2016's Olympic sailing competition. Two more gold medals have been decided with a day to spare.
With his gold sewn up on Sunday, Scott sailed incident free through the Finn heavyweight dinghy medal race to cross the line in second and officially become the new Olympic Finn champion.
Scott admitted he had enjoyed the pressure being off after achieving an unassailable lead in the race series, two days earlier.
He said: ‘The initial hit I experienced after race 10 was the big moment where it really, really hit me hard, but since then I’ve had some time to think about what we’ve put together and look back on the last three years.
‘We knew coming into Rio that the racing wasn’t going to be easy and regardless of form, it was always going to be a hard week, and it certainly was that. To win it the way I have, I couldn’t ask for it any other way.’
Britain’s Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark (GBR) have also won the Women’s 470 gold medal with the medal race to spare.
The Weymouth-based team, who took silver four years ago at London 2012, sailed a very solid day with scores of 3,2,3 to carry an unassailable 20-point advantage into today’s medal race.
The only thing that stands in the Brits’ way is if they receive a technical two-point penalty for failing to follow pre-Medal Race procedures. But they’re unlikely to jeopardise their gold with any such oversight.
Mills said: ‘It’s disbelief, I didn’t trust Joe, our coach, that he got the points right and it took a while, it still hasn’t sunk in! You try not to let it affect you too much, but we knew if we beat all our main rivals in that last race we would be guaranteed the gold.
‘Tensions were high but I’m absolutely shocked, stunned and so relieved. We need to not mess up, be solid and just get round the course.’
Clark added: ‘We’ve been really consistent and solid all week, there was a really nice breeze out there, 10-13 knots, and that probably settled our nerves a bit as we know we are one of the fastest in those conditions.
‘As each race went passed we were like ‘it’s still about this next race, nothing is won, nothing is lost right now.’ Let’s just race solid and do what we need to do.’
Their arch-rivals, the defending Olympic Champions Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie (NZL) have sailed an incredible comeback series after clocking up two expensive disqualifications earlier in the competition.
The Kiwis’ scores of 1,1,4 yesterday have lifted them back to the silver medal position, with the double-points medal race poised for a fierce battle for silver and bronze as six teams are separated by just 11 points.
They are Slovenia, USA, France, Japan and the Netherlands. Austria’s double World Champions have had a disappointing week by their high standards, but Lara Vadlau and Jolanta Ogar still have an outside shot at silver or bronze.
Also still in with a medal shout are the 49er duo of Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign, who sailed their way into podium contention with an impressive 1, 6 and 3 display yesterday.
Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (NZL) have already secured the 49er Men’s gold medal after dominating the 20-boat fleet at Rio 2016 over the past week.
Behind them the battle rages on for the other medals, with Erik Heil and Thomas Ploessel (GER) holding second place in front of the 2012 Olympic Champions Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen (AUS).
With tomorrow’s medal race worth double points, to claim a debut Games podium finish Fletcher and Sign, currently fourth overall, have to put four boats between themselves and the Australians, and six boats ahead of the Germans.
Fletcher said: ‘It was nice to finish the fleet racing on a high. Whatever it takes we’ll be there trying to win the medal race and hopefully things will fall into place behind.’
But there was disappointment for Nick Thompson in the Laser and the Nacra 17 multihull duo Ben Saxton and Nicola Groves who couldn’t convert their slim hopes going into yesterday’s final double points medal races into podium finishes.
Thompson finished eighth to end the regatta sixth overall, while Saxton and Groves crossed the medal race line in ninth, to finish ninth overall.
Argentineans Santiago Lange and Cecilia Carranza Saroli won gold after a tense medal race in the Nacra 17 mixed multihull. Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin (AUS) took silver and bronze goes to Thomas Zajac and Tanja Frank (AUT).
It has been an extraordinary Games for Lange, at 54 the oldest competitor in the sailing competition at Rio 2016. He has had the pleasure of watching his sons, Yago and Klaus, represent the nation in the 49er skiff, and he has survived cancer in the past year.
Lange says the rigours of his sport helped to save his life and return to competition after he lost half a lung to cancer just a year ago. His hectic schedule led to diagnosis of the disease, he said, while the experience of five Olympic campaigns, winning two medals along the way, was key in keeping him positive through his ordeal and returning for a sixth challenge.
Lange, with crewmate Carlos Espinola, won bronzes for Argentina at Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 in the now discontinued two-person Tornado class event before combining with Saroli (ARG) in 2014 in the Nacra 17 mixed class, a new addition to the Olympic sailing schedule at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Plans were suddenly placed on hold in 2015 when Lange was diagnosed with cancer and eventually he had half his left lung removed. ‘The six months I was dealing with that, I was so positive,’ Lange said. ‘Now when I look back it was a good experience, difficult, but I learned a lot. I was operated on in Barcelona and after five days I was cycling, in a month I was back sailing.’
Lange was reluctant to dwell too much on his cancer episode: ‘This may help to give strength to many people who are going through what I’ve been through. But I prefer to focus on what we did athletically. The disease has nothing to do with it, it was a stone in the road. I became obsessed with getting to Rio very well prepared and we did.’
He was also reluctant to focus on his age. ‘I am a firm believer that you carry your age in your heart and in the desire to do things, not in the numbers. I do not look at the number of your age, only the desire I have for my goals and to achieve them.’
Alison Young refused to blame a broken ankle, sustained eight weeks ago, for not meeting her performance expectations in Rio. Young won the Laser Radial medal race to end her regatta in eighth overall.
Meanwhile Luke Patience and Chris Grube admitted their pride at even making the 470 Men’s medal race after seeing their hopes of a podium finish ended despite enjoying their best day on the water in Rio. The pair have only been sailing together for eight months following Elliot Willis’ cancer diagnosis late last year.
Patience said: ‘I feel quite emotional because I am so pleased on how we raced this week. Two months ago we were miles off feeling like we could sail at the front of the fleet, we’ve only had eight months to prepare and I am walking away with my head held high. We’ve exceeded what we should be doing with eight months of work.’
The 49erFX women’s duo of Charlotte Dobson and Sophie Ainsworth, currently in seventh place, are also not in a position to end their first Games with a medal after a disappointing day of 15, 14 and 8 from their three races left them with too big a gap to close with that one medal race remaining.
The 470 Women’s Medal Race is scheduled to take place on the Pão de Açucar (Sugarloaf) course at 5pm BST today.
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