‘Disappointing Olympics’ for Irish sailing, says independent external review

Tokyo was a disappointing Olympics that fell short of high post-Rio expectations, according to the conclusion of an independent external study released yesterday by the Irish Sailing Association (ISA).

“Fewer qualified boats than expected, and the performance of qualified boats was disappointing,” the report said.

The review, commissioned by the ISA, was prepared by sports coaching guru Gary Keegan of Uppercut Consultants and was originally due to be published by November 2021, but was published yesterday (February 8) on the website of the ‘association.

The review follows criticism from a number of key observers, including Olympians and former coaches, as well as former ISA President Roger Bannon, who called for “unbiased reflection on Ireland’s sailing performance” after Tokyo.

In the five years following Rio, Irish Sailing has received €3.87m in high performance public funding as follows: 2017: €735k, 2018: €735k, 2019: €800k, 2020: €800k k€ and 2021: 800 k€. The association also benefited from a state grant of €1,553 million under the national sports policy, broken down as follows: 2018: €323,000, 2019: €385,000, 2020: €410,000 and 2021 : 435 K€

“Sailing is one of the top three most funded sports in Ireland, and it was expected that four boats would qualify, two medal contenders and an Olympic medal, but that was not achieved. “, says the Keegan report.

49er climax

However, “the 49er crew’s performance was a highlight considering they were first-time Olympians and suffered a two-race disqualification,” Keegan notes.

Presenting the report, Irish Sailing Chairman David O’Brien said: “I am very pleased to share the independent external review of the Tokyo Olympics with you, Irish Sailing members and the sailing community. sailing in the broad sense”.

It appears, however, that the association did not publish the full review and instead published a 17-page “summary of key findings”. (downloadable below)

Emerging themes arising from Gary Keegan’s analysis of Irish Sailing Tokyo Review data

The summary document notes: “A comprehensive report was delivered to the review steering committee that outlines detailed findings, supporting evidence and recommendations based on the data and information shared during the review and shared also some insights and comparisons based on our experience of HP environments.”.

Sports Ireland

The report states that Sport Ireland’s confidence in the IS High Performance Program (HPP) has been demonstrated in the level of investment the HPP has managed to secure throughout the Rio and Tokyo cycles, but “it would appear there will be a slight shift in confidence from Sport Ireland’s perspective following the performances in Tokyo and, what Sport Ireland believes, a reduced level of proactive communication and engagement from the HPP to Sport Ireland on high performance issues “.

Irish Sailing Community

“The Irish sailing community (the grassroots of the club) would benefit from increased awareness and understanding of HPP,” the review concludes. PHP athletes have all developed through the club system into PHP. The report states that “their journey and efforts to be world-class should be shared more with club members to reinforce the sense of pride and connection between the club’s community and its HPP”.

Fukuroi Base

“There were positive comments about Fukuroi in Tokyo, but at their Olympic accommodation base, athletes reported difficulties with ‘a feeling of isolation due to location, travel times between hotel and location of sailing, lack of facilities, time for themselves (leading to overthinking) restricted movements, room sharing, poor quality of food, etc.,” the Uppercut report states.

Some of these issues were caused by the loss of the planned main accommodation base, which was a critical factor in the quality of the final drawdown and team preparations. “Overall there was a lack of on-site support compared to competitors, for example access to psychological and physical support, boat repairs, etc. and management reported the challenge of getting this support throughout the duration of the Games,” the report said.

Harness Measurement Violation

The report deals with the measurement infraction suffered by the crew of the 49er which led to the disqualification of two races and concludes that it was “avoidable”. Coaches and athletes pointed out that the cause was due to a harness that had deteriorated, i.e. wear and tear on the hydrophobic layer of the harness, causing it to absorb more water and therefore increase his weight.

“The harness was checked too far from the regatta. There was no protocol in place to identify red flags in the system and the appropriate action to take and also no check and balance protocol,” says- he.

Selection Policy and Process

With regard to the selection policy and process for future Olympics, the report indicates that consideration could be given to incorporating a “force majeure” provision into the selection policy to deal with unforeseen and unforeseen situations. .

The report also says more communication with athletes who do not qualify needs to be improved with time to do so with sensitivity and respect and to explain context and rationale. As regular Afloat readers will know, a shortened Radial trial caused significant concern and a one-time process change in 2020.

Irish Sailing performance manager James O’Callaghan said in response to the report. “The challenges are clear, but there is great optimism from all stakeholders about the program’s potential given the athlete profile and the experience of the coaching and leadership team.”

Download the summary of results below

All of Afloat’s Tokyo coverage can be found in this dedicated link here. Rio 2016 coverage is here and Paris 2024 is here.

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