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Rod Davis- Olympics in Review - Calling New Zealand and USA to account

by Rod Davis on 4 Sep 2012
NZL leads USA on the Practice day of the Star class on Weymouth Bay, 2012 Olympic Regatta © Richard Gladwell www.photosport.co.nz

Former Yachting NZ Olympic Director, professional sailing coach, Olympic Gold (USA) and Silver medalist (NZL)and long time US and NZL America's Cup crew and skipper, Rod Davis, penned these thoughts on the 2012 New Zealand and US Olympic effort.

After every Olympic regatta Yachting New Zealand, along with every other NZ sport authority, will front before Sport New Zealand, formerly known as SPARC.

They’re the ones with the dollars. It's a nerve-racking experience, as moneymen hold the fate and future of athletes/sailors in their hands.

They slice up the sport funding pie, based on how bright, they see the future and number of medals you will win at the next Olympics.

As Olympic Director for YNZ in 2004-2008, I have been in the hot seat several times. It's a stressful time, as normal rules like 'under sell and over deliver', don’t apply.

That would be a risky strategy as you could easily walk away with a few tidbits, and an underfunded Olympic program in reward for your modesty. One thing a smart presenter will keep in mind when making their case is that it is not about selling the administration, programs, PR or jumping in front of camera - it’s about the sailors.

Here’s a bit of inside knowledge from the 2008 review.

(Then) SPARC wanted yachting to produce three medals at the 2012 Olympics. We convinced them of use a point system instead. Three points for a Gold medal, two points for Silver, and one for a Bronze. In 2008 our sailors got one Gold or three points. The new Target/Demand for 2012 was five points.

As I am not affiliated with any Olympic teram now, I can be objective in this review of the Kiwi's performance at Weymouth

New Zealand filled almost every seat on the bus for Weymoth, only missing the Womens windsurfer. The team was a mix of the old guard, sailors with multiple Olympics under their belts, and a young new look of under 25 year olds.

Both Peter Burling and Jo Aleh had been through the Olympic experience in Qingdao.

It's no secret, since 1992 Kiwi sailors have not won a Olympic Sailing medal except in Windsurfers.

Why this is the subject of long debate. The simple answer is New Zealand had a 20-year run when the boat sailors simply failed to fire enough to win medals at the Games. Got close on some occasions, but in the end nothing in the cabinet.

The old guard had a good Olympics, Hamish Pepper, with Jim Turner a fifth and Dan Slater a seventh. Both had personal bests for the Games but never really in contention to stand on the podium.

For New Zealand, the youngsters carried the day and the team. For me, there were three stand out teams, 470 men got a fifth (Paul Snow Hansen & Jason Saunders) 470 women (Jo Aleh & Olivia Powrie) a Gold medal, and 49er a Silver (Peter Burling & Blair Tuke). None were over 25 years of age. All were in medal contention from day one to the end.

Young, motivated talent – who have now added experience and been successful at Olympic level. You don't have to a psychic to know what that means for the future.

Just want the 'money men' want to hear. Should be an easy time in the hot seat.

Mind you it’s no time to get complacent, or you will be next to the Windsurfer and Tornado on the Olympic scrap heap.

2004 was the Kiwis' dark day of no Yachting medals. 2008 was the light at the end of the tunnel with a Gold. 2012 was stepping in the sunlight, winning a Gold and Silver (5 points!).

Spare a thought for US Sailing. The USA did not win any medals in Weymouth.

There will be an abundance of finger pointing, opinion and second-guessing.

The New Zealanders have been there done that in 2004.

What is needed to move forward are a clear heads, a lucid plan and great execution. But this is an election year - a time to do what is popular, not necessary a time to do what is right.




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