Returning Olympic medalists including Irish Annalize Murphy aim for radial repeat at Tokyo 2020

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With silver and gold from the last two Olympic Games, Marit Bouwmeester (NED) looks well positioned to score a Laser Radial hat trick at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic sailing competition.

However, the Dutch sailor will struggle to match Rio 2016 gold, with a strong field ready to push the 31-year-old all the way. No one can question their commitment to the cause. She has won four world titles in the past 10 years, most recently in 2020.

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When she won the Hempel World Cup Series in Enoshima two years ago, Bouwmeester celebrated in a karaoke bar (favorite song: Barbie Girl by Aqua, since you ask). This time however, with the COVID-19 rules in place, Bouwmeester is looking to blackmail her boat and carry her to another gold medal.

Dutch Marit Bouwmeester

Perhaps the biggest threat to the Dutch victory comes from Denmark and Anne-Marie Rindom looking to improve on her Rio 2016 bronze medal. It will be her third Games and the Dane believes her best years are still ahead of her. .

“In London, I was young and I was there to learn as much as possible,” commented Rindom. “For me going there was a big thing and the outcome didn’t matter that much. It was a great experience just going to the Olympics, especially when it was so close to Denmark. Rio was different. My goal was to come home with a medal and I knew I had a real chance if it all came together. It all became a question of how I could achieve this goal. I was preparing a lot. The whole experience after winning the bronze medal was amazing.

Danish Anne-Marie RindomDanish Anne-Marie Rindom

Since Rio, Rindom has racked up a few astonishing years of world results, including world titles in 2015 and 2019, as well as a silver medal at last year’s European Championships and the Hempel World Cup Series in Enoshima il two years ago. She knows she will have to do a full performance at the Games.

Rindom said: “The conditions in Tokyo are tough so it’s very important to learn how the wind reacts. On top of that, I think mental preparation is the key to winning a medal at the Olympics. At least 10 sailors have the navigation skills to win, but what puts you in the spotlight is your mental skills. In my navigation I try to make everything as simple as possible. And I see that as one of my strengths.

Rindom is one of the many women who have enjoyed spending time training on the professional SailGP circuit, on multi-million dollar 50ft foiling catamarans capable of reaching speeds at least five times the speed. that she could hope to achieve on her humble Laser Radial. “I have been sailing in Laser for 12 years and I needed a new look at the sport. Joining the Danish SailGP team on the mid-Atlantic island of Bermuda just a few months before Tokyo was a bit of a departure from typical Olympics preparation, but no regrets from Rindom. “SailGP is a great opportunity to be part of and learn.”

There are bound to be tough times during the Games, but Rindom is ready for anything. “I work with a sports psychologist and adversity at big events is something we prepare for. Being able to visualize these difficult situations and come up with a strategy to overcome them is crucial. Sailing is not about winning all the races, it is about turning those difficult situations into “correct races”. At the end of the regatta, that’s what puts you on the podium.

Emma Plasschaert’s big breakthrough came in 2018 with a victory at the World Championships in Denmark. In 2019, the Belgian sailor first won the READY STEADY TOKYO – Sailing, Olympic test event, then the Hempel World Cup. A double victory on Olympic waters which bodes well for his hopes of reaching the podium. The last Belgian to step onto the Radial podium was Evi van Acker who won bronze after a breathtaking battle in the Medal Race in London 2012, and van Acker will be the head coach of the Belgian sailors in Tokyo.

“After a difficult year, the pieces of the puzzle are slowly falling into place,” said the 27-year-old. In a way, I was a little relieved that the Games had been postponed. Before that I still lacked confidence in some areas, especially with tactics, race planning and starts. With the extra time, we were able to figure it all out. “

As for her ambitions for Tokyo 2020, “I want to be able to come back to my race without regret, knowing that the sailor I have shown is the best version of myself. The sail is so unpredictable that sometimes you really can’t control the outcome. “

Irish Annalize Murphy

Speaking of this London 2012 Medal Race, where China won gold, the Netherlands (Marit Bouwmeester) silver and Belgium (Evi van Acker) bronze, the one that missed the gold is the Irish Annalize Murphy.

Having led a good part of the competition, the medal escaped him on this occasion. Murphy’s towering height – 1.86m – gives her a huge advantage in a strong breeze, but the Irish sailor worked really hard on her general skills and unexpectedly walked away from Rio 2016 with Olympic silver. She then turned her attention to Tokyo 2020 but in a different class, the high-speed 49erFX. Murphy discovered there was too much to learn in too little time, so she came back to the Radial and is working hard to be ready for the Enoshima race.

Irish Annalize MurphyIrish Annalize Murphy

“I’m going to the Olympics for the third time, it’s just crazy! said the still enthusiastic Murphy. “After Rio I spent some time in the Volvo Ocean Race and really enjoyed being part of a crew so I competed for a while with Katie Tingle in the 49erFX. But as Tokyo got closer, I brought the focus back to the Laser Radial. I think the conditions in Tokyo might be fine for me, and I know I’m working harder than anyone else, so I’m ready for a good competition.

Someone who has worked longer and harder on this quest is Paige Railey who has been with the US National Sailing Team since 2005. Now 34, Railey has shifted her focus from the podium to performance. “I just want to perform well. I want to go out there and perform the things I trained for. If I do, everything will fall into place.”

Barely beaten in the Olympic selection in 2008 when the woman who beat him – Anna Tunnicliffe – won gold for the United States, Railey suffered many other setbacks along the way. Shortly after the Rio Games where she finished tenth, Railey was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease which forced her to take time off from sports. But she has bounced back and remains more dedicated than ever to the task. In 2008, his older brother Zach won Olympic silver in Finnish, and Paige could make a brace.

Like Railey, Briton Alison Young is a veteran of the last two Olympic sailing competitions, finishing fifth in London and eighth in Rio. World champion in 2016 and world bronze medalist in 2019, Young was always tough to beat in the breeze and in good conditions he could claim a medal.

Local fans will wish Manami Doi all the best in her attempt to win a first-ever women’s solo medal for Japan. She is a veteran of two Olympic Games and is still only 27 years old. An eighth place finish at last year’s World Championship suggests the podium is within reach.

The Manami Doi of JapanThe Manami Doi of Japan

The oldest sailor in the fleet, Tatiana Drozdovskaya (BLR), has competed in four Games since Sydney 2000. In 2007, the Belarusian sailor won the World Championship and 14 years later, aged 42, Drozdovskaya still has thirst for Olympic competition.

At the other end of the age range is Vasileia Karachaliou who, at 24, represents Greece in her first Games. A fourth place finish at last year’s European Championships as well as podiums at the warm-up regattas in Lanzarote earlier this year suggest she could hit her stride in time for Tokyo.

Swiss Maud Jayet says she is ready for the biggest regatta of her life. “The aim is to fight for the medals as long as possible in the competition,” said the 25-year-old, who finished fifth at the European Championship last year. “I don’t want to miss my chances on the first or second day, which has happened to me in the past. This means that I will have to be consistent and avoid big mistakes. We’ll see where that takes me at the end of the competition.

In 2020, Nethra Kumanan became the first Indian woman to win a Sailing World Cup medal. She won bronze at the Hempel World Cup Series in Miami. The engineering student innovates in a country not very interested in sailing. “Most people don’t know that sailing exists in India,” she says, but adds, “I think it looks good because now we have more people participating in it at a higher level, so I think more and more people are drawn to this I’m 22 and if someone younger came to me I would tell them that this sport takes a lot of time, a lot of hours in the water but it’s worth it. meet people from different countries and see them try to do their best and you try to do better than them.

The Laser Radial, a women’s single-seater dinghy, is Tokyo’s largest fleet with 44 boats confirmed to take the start. At the Kamakura race area, their first race will start at 1200 JST on Sunday July 25. Ten races will follow before the Medal Race on Sunday August 1st.

A complete list of competitors is here

-Andy Rice

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